LSU middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith paused for a moment when asked to recall the last time Mississippi State came to Baton Rouge.
Then, the nightmare hit him like a ton of bricks.
“Oh, Lord,” Beckwith sighed. “Damn. Talking about when they ran up and down the field on us?”
Beckwith wasn’t a starter at that point in 2014, but he remembers the struggle to wrap up former Bulldogs running back Josh Robinson. At 5-foot-9, 215 pounds, Robinson is built like Maurice Jones-Drew or Ray Rice, utilizing a low center of gravity to bounce off tackles.
But Robinson may have flown under the radar before this Week 4 matchup. This game was about Dak Prescott.
Prescott, now the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback, brings a certain physicality to the position, but he’s also a surgeon when he drops back to pass, as Beckwith and Tigers safety Jamal Adams can attest. Couple that with receivers like De’Runnya Wilson, and the LSU defense certainly had its hands full.
“Not facing him, it’s a plus because he’s really smart, knows how to break down defenses,” Adams, a friend of Prescott’s, said. “His body frame is something that we’re not going to miss, I would put it like that.”
Still, Mississippi State hadn’t beaten LSU in 15 years and hadn’t won in Tiger Stadium in more than two decades. The Bulldogs have just one conference title and their 2014 recruiting class was ranked No. 34 nationally. Even Prescott was part a two-quarterback system in 2013 and had been dealing with an elbow injury at the end of the previous season.
And none of that mattered because then-unranked Mississippi State had arguably its best team in school history.
“That was a rough night,” Beckwith said. “We gave up ton of yards. Man, that was a bad night.”
The crowd remaining in Tiger Stadium let out a collective oooooh.
Five hundred and seventy yards of offense later, Louisiana kids like Prescott and Robinson walked out of Tiger Stadium with 34-29 victory. Prescott was responsible for 373 yards and three touchdowns between the air and ground. Robinson added 197 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown.
The final score isn’t indicative of how dominating the Bulldogs were for most of the game. Mississippi State led by as many as 24 points in the fourth quarter, and Robinson and Prescott gashed LSU for runs of 66 and 56 yards, respectively. Prescott found Jameon Lewis wide open for a 74-yard touchdown to stretch the Bulldogs lead to 31-10.
“I wasn’t playing significantly at the time,” fullback J.D. Moore said. “I had a few snaps late in that game. I just remember Dak Prescott was incredible, and he’s continuing to do incredible things in the NFL now. They had a lot of talent on that team. It was kind of frustrating.”
Two week later, Mississippi State was ranked No. 1 in both polls for the first time in school history. It was the fastest rise to the top spot in AP poll history. The Bulldogs finished the season 10-3 with a loss in the Orange Bowl to Georgia Tech.
Even Derrius Guice, who was high school senior at Catholic High when LSU and Mississippi State squared off in 2014, was surprised by Mississippi State’s ascension.
“It did because I did not see Mississippi State going almost undefeated that year,” Guice said.
LSU quarterback Brandon Harris, the starter for the last 14 games who was benched Saturday against Jacksonville State, made his first significant impact in an LSU uniform against the Bulldogs. Replacing starter Anthony Jennings, Harris tossed touchdown passes of 31 and 30 yards to Malachi Dupre in the final two minutes of the game.
“I think he just came in and played ball,” Pocic said of Harris in that game. “Just came in and was playing ball. I remember we were down and kind of came back, made it close, but didn’t get the job done.”
Down 34-29 with five seconds remaining, Harris’ desperation pass from the Mississippi State 46-yard line was intercepted at the 1-yard line. The following week, Harris replaced Jennings against New Mexico State and accounted for five touchdowns in a 63-7 win. Jennings regained the starting spot when Harris faltered against Auburn.
LSU coach Les Miles compared quarterback Brandon Harris, the starter for the Tigers first tw…
Much has changed since 2014. Harris has been replaced by Danny Etling for at least the start of Saturday night’s game between the two teams at 6:05 p.m. Prescott, Robinson, Wilson and Lewis are all gone.
Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen still runs the same spread option attack but has played two different quarterbacks through the first two games of 2016.
Mullen is confident in his starter, Nick Fitzgerald, who rushed for a school record 195 yards against South Carolina last week, but he brings a different style than Prescott.
“We were a little bit more of a passing team last year and a little bit more of a running team the year before that,” Mullen said at Monday news conference. “Nick is a different style of runner than Dak was. He’s faster than Dak and a little bit more explosive than Dak with the ball in his hands. I don’t know if he’s as physical as Dak was. It’s a little different style of running.”