By JOEL COLEMAN
To football fans in the state of Mississippi, the Battle for the Golden Egg is the primary tool used to gauge the success of a season.
Moments after his Mississippi State team fell to arch-rival Ole Miss 38-27 on Saturday night though, MSU head coach Dan Mullen provided a different perspective.
Mullen admitted he was disappointed to lose the Egg Bowl for the second year in a row, but couldn’t help but point out how the Bulldogs defied many preseason prognostications.
“We finished a lot better than (the media) thought we would since (the media) picked us to finish last in the SEC,” Mullen said. “A lot of people probably doubted we’d make a bowl game. I’d think an 8-4 season is pretty remarkable by this group of young men to be honest with you. For them to do that, I don’t think anyone gave them any chance to be successful before the season. I’m pretty proud of what they did when you look at the season as a whole with all the different adversities that we faced and all the different injuries that we faced throughout the year. The guys, even to the final whistle (against Ole Miss), they weren’t going to give in. I’m pretty proud of their efforts.”
The season was quite the rollercoaster ride for Mullen and the Bulldogs. Mississippi State lost key SEC contests to LSU and Texas A&M in the first half of the season. A four-game winning streak in the middle of the campaign, including a pair of conference victories, shot the Bulldogs back into contention for the SEC West championship.
That’s when MSU faced the three-game gauntlet that saw them sandwich a 1-point win at Arkansas between decisive losses to division foes Alabama and Ole Miss.
Mullen was hoping for better showings down the stretch, but was quick to give credit to the opposition that halted Mississippi State’s momentum.
“We played some pretty good football teams to be honest,” Mullen said. “The last three games were against three excellent football teams. One was probably the No. 1 team in America and this was a very good football team we played (Saturday).”
The loss to Ole Miss especially stung for MSU senior quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott didn’t get the send-off he was looking for in his final game at Davis Wade Stadium, but he refused to look at the season as a disappointment.
“It was still a successful season,” Prescott said. “It hurts to lose (to Ole Miss) and some of the other games that we lost, but we were picked to be dead last in the SEC and came out and fought all year long.”
Prescott will get the chance to write a more fitting final chapter for his illustrious Bulldog career. Mississippi State will have the opportunity to play in a bowl game for the sixth-consecutive season. The AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl in Houston, Texas, Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina and Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee are among MSU’s possible postseason destinations.
Mississippi State should learn which bowl it will play in on Sunday.
Wherever his team winds up, Prescott plans to wash the bitter taste of the Egg Bowl loss out of his mouth.
“We want to go get a win,” Prescott said. “That’s how we want this team to be remembered. We want to get that bowl win and finish out the season the right way for this team.”
Prescott isn’t the only Bulldog who feels that way. The 14 other seniors on the MSU roster are in step with their signal caller.
Still hurting from the loss to the Rebels, senior cornerback Taveze Calhoun sounded like a man determined to make amends.
“We just want to go out a winner,” Calhoun said. “Our team is like a family. Everybody just wants to send the seniors out the right way with a win and get some momentum going for next year.”
Whatever happens in the bowl game, it seems as though Calhoun can’t lose on a personal level. As part of the winningest senior class at MSU since 1942, Calhoun says he embraces getting to suit up yet again.
“I love my teammates and I love my school,” Calhoun said. “It’s just a blessing to be able to wear maroon and white one more time.”