JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was a man in a good mood earlier this week, bouncing up the stairs on his way to a speaking engagement in the state’s capital city.
He didn’t hesitate to shake hands with well-wishers when he came through the door, laughing as he walked into a large room packed with football fans from several different schools.
“I’m sure the State fans are going to be sitting up a little taller with their heads a little higher,” Mullen said.
These are good days for the Bulldogs, who are still celebrating arguably the biggest victory of Mullen’s six-year tenure. Mississippi State knocked off No. 8 LSU 34-29 on Saturday, dominating for most of the evening until a final Tigers flurry made it close in the final minutes.
The win ended a 14-game losing streak against LSU dating to 1999.
It also earned Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) some national and league respect. The Bulldogs jumped from an unranked program to No. 14 in The Associated Press poll and now have a signature win to back up their goal of competing for a title in the SEC’s loaded Western Division.
The Bulldogs have a few extra days to enjoy the LSU victory because of a bye week. They’ll host Texas A&M on Oct. 4 in another crucial league showdown.
“We’ll see how (players) handle it,” Mullen said. “That’s the most important thing to me. In the locker room after the game our guys were fired up, they were excited and there was a great sense of accomplishment getting that win. But it wasn’t a shock.”
One reason Mississippi State is starting to expect good things is the consistently spectacular play of quarterback Dak Prescott.
The 6-foot-2, 229-pound junior was named the league’s co-offensive player of the week on Monday after throwing for 268 yards and two touchdowns while also running for 105 rushing yards and a touchdown.
But the performance of the Bulldogs’ offensive line and junior running back Josh Robinson was an eye-opener.
The 5-foot-9, 215-pound Robinson ran for a career-high 197 yards and a touchdown while averaging a stunning 12.3 yards per carry.
“The yards after contact were huge — he turned some small runs into bigger plays,” Mullen said. “To me, that is what really kept us going, turning 5-yard runs into 12-yard runs. Those are things that allowed us to pick up the tempo, go faster on offense and control the line of scrimmage.”
Robinson was a backup the previous two seasons behind LaDarius Perkins. But he’s excelled in the feature role so far this fall, with 485 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
“He always comes with a great attitude and I always knew he had the talent,” Mullen said. “What you’re seeing is him maturing as a player. That’s the most important thing. He’s got to be a guy who does it right every single day and doesn’t just rely on talent.”