Just because Mississippi State hasn’t faced Missouri in the Dan Mullen era, don’t think for one second the Bulldogs’ coach doesn’t know how to beat the Tigers.
Mullen was the quarterbacks coach for Bowling Green from 2001-02. Who was the head coach for the Falcons? None other than Urban Meyer.
In their first year, Meyer and company took Bowling Green into Missouri and came away victorious, 20-13, in Gary Pinkel’s first season as Tigers’ coach. The win had monumental meaning for a number of reasons.
“The first time was the first game at Bowling Green, (it) was at Missouri,” said Mullen on the SEC teleconference Wednesday. “I think that was just huge for the program. I imagine for Urban Meyer’s career as a head coach, you want to get that first win and to do it in your first game on the road at Missouri. I think that was huge.”
The Falcons went 8-3 in that first season under Meyer, a giant turnaround from the 2-9 season the year prior. When it was Missouri’s turn to travel to Bowling Green in 2002, the beatdown got even worse.
Bowling Green walloped Missouri, 51-28, en route to a 9-3 season. Mullen said wins over a big-time program like Missouri were part of the reason the Falcons were “catapulted into the national spotlight,” as well.
“It kind of put Urban Meyer in the spotlight,” Mullen said. “He had a lot of young assistant coaches on that staff and everybody seems to have done real well after leaving Bowling Green.”
Of course Meyer went on to become one of the top coaches in college football, with three national titles under his belt — two while at Florida (2006, 2008) and one at Ohio State (2014).
Mullen has put together a 52-33 record with the Bulldogs and has led Mississippi State to three bowl wins in five postseason trips. Prior to Mullen’s arrival at Starkville, Miss., the program had just one bowl appearance in eight seasons.
Other Bowling Green assistants flourished too. Then-defensive coordinator Tim Beckman went on to head coaching spots at Toledo (2009-11) and Illinois (2012-14), while then-special teams coordinator and running backs coach Stan Drayton is now coaching running backs for the Chicago Bears.
When Mississippi State travels to Missouri Thursday, Mullen will have drawn from more than just game film to prepare his team for the field of play.