After Mississippi State surged to a 14-0 lead early against LSU Saturday, the Bulldogs managed to keep the No. 8-ranked LSU Tigers at arm’s length–literally in the case of Dak Prescott’s posterizing stiff-arm on a 56-yard touchdown rush–en route to a 34-29 win.
Mississippi State didn’t just snap its 14-game losing skid to SEC West rival LSU; it ended the drought at night in Death Valley. The Bulldogs had to overcome some of that nighttime mystique, giving up 19 straight points that turned a three-touchdown advantage into a final Hail Mary attempt.
But no matter how it came about, it came. Mississippi State scored its first win over a ranked opponent since 2010, beat LSU for the first time in a decade-and-a-half and sent a message to the rest of the SEC: This is a legitimate championship contender in a deep and wide-open conference title race.
The Bulldogs front seven lived up to its billing much of the night, holding LSU to just 89 rushing yards and a paltry 2-of-13 on third-down conversions.
Mississippi State’s smash-mouth defensive performance against LSU’s multifaceted ground attack embodied the Big Boy Football brand SEC proponents are so proud of.
Of course, the Bulldogs also showed off plenty of the offensive firepower that made Mullen a hot coaching name in his time as a coordinator at Florida: 570 yards of total offense, perfectly blending the run and pass.
Prescott was a dual-threat dynamo, perhaps playing his way into the very early Heisman conversation with 268 yards passing and 105 rushing. But running back Josh Robinson’s ridiculous 12.3 yards per carry really stole the show.
The LSU run defense struggled to contain Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon in the first half Week 1, but the Tigers seemingly buckled down in shutting out inferior opponents, Sam Houston State and UL-Monroe. But Robinson was able to gash the young Tigers in a manner similar to Gordon before the Badgers back’s injury.
Mississippi State’s backfield tag team operated so smoothly in tandem. If they can continue to perform even just approaching Saturday’s level, they’ll give SEC defensive coordinators headaches. John Chavis will surely be searching his medicine cabinet for Aspirin.
Knocking off LSU is a small measure of vindication for Mullen. Despite having unprecedented consistency since arriving at Mississippi State, Mullen’s is a name on the tip of every hot-seat pundit’s tongue. Fueling his critics was an abysmal 2-21 record against ranked opponents.
The Bulldogs were SEC cellar dwellers long before Mullen’s arrival, and decades of mediocrity (or worse) weren’t going to be erased in just a few years. Mississippi State needed time to build, and the fruits of Mullen’s labor appear to be paying off.
Mississippi State returns to Starkville for a critical two-game stretch, with top-10 teams Texas A&M and Auburn facing both the CLANGA! of cowbells and a legitimate SEC championship contender.