STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi State’s first trip to the top of the national rankings has lasted four weeks and the Bulldogs are still in command of the Southeastern Conference’s brutal Western Division.
But admittedly, it’s a group that hasn’t looked invincible of late.
No. 1 Mississippi State (8-0, 5-0 SEC, No. 1 CFP) pulled out a 17-10 victory over Arkansas on Saturday, rallying for the win in the second half despite falling into an early 10-0 hole. Dak Prescott threw for a career-high 331 yards, including the go-ahead 69-yard touchdown to Fred Ross early in the fourth quarter.
The narrow victory came on the heels of a 45-31 win on the road against Kentucky on Oct. 25 — a seesaw affair that featured big plays from both teams.
“Throughout the season we are going to have to face adversity, and that just shows you what kind of team we are,” Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson said. “If we just keep playing Mississippi State ball, we’ll be fine.”
Arkansas — which has now lost 17 straight conference games after Saturday’s setback — looked little like a team without an SEC victory in two seasons. The Razorbacks were committed to stopping the Bulldogs’ power running duo of Prescott and Robinson, and succeeded for much of the night.
That led to some strange stat lines for the Bulldogs. Robinson set career-highs in both receptions (6) and yards receiving (110) and Prescott was the first MSU quarterback in coach Dan Mullen’s six-year tenure to throw for at least 300 yards in a single game.
But the most important stat? 11. The Bulldogs’ current 11-game winning streak has lasted nearly a year and is the second-longest in the country behind Florida State.
“Everyone in the country is going to try to take the run away,” Robinson said. “We just have to stay focused and do what we do.”
Prescott’s passing performance was even more impressive considering the 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior didn’t look completely healthy. He was seen several times during the week wearing a protective boot over his left foot, though he insisted he wasn’t limited during practice and it was just a protective measure.
His occasionally timid moves in the pocket and two interceptions on Saturday told a different story.
The good news for Prescott and the Bulldogs is they have some time for rest before a vital SEC showdown with Alabama on Nov. 15 in Tuscaloosa. Mississippi State does have a game this Saturday — against Football Championship Subdivision foe Tennessee-Martin — but that figures to be little more than a scrimmage before the team’s full attention can be turned toward the Tide.
In the meantime, there will be questions. Can the Bulldogs’ secondary shore up problems that caused all of those breakdowns against Kentucky? Can the offense continue to overcome so many turnovers — including eight over the past three games?
So far, the Bulldogs have responded well to adversity. Now in the season’s home stretch, they’re trying to make sure that’s still the case.
“We’re not striving to be the best team in the country,” Mississippi State defensive lineman Chris Jones said. “We’re striving to be the best team in a stadium on a Saturday.”
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