As the 2013 regular season entered its final two weeks, Mississippi State appeared to be teetering, at least from afar. The Bulldogs were battling injuries at quarterback, mired in a three-game losing streak and licking their wounds from a brutal schedule. Needing to win their last two just to get into a bowl game, that’s exactly what they did -- both in overtime.
True freshman quarterback Damian Williams finished the 24-17 road win at Arkansas and provided the winning points with a 25-yard touchdown run in overtime. The 17-10 overtime victory over Ole Miss was equally thrilling, this time with an ailing Dak Prescott coming off the bench to score the winning touchdown on a 3-yard run. The Bulldogs then exploded in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl with a 44-7 rout of Rice.
Just like that, they went from nearly missing a bowl game to a three-game winning streak to close the season and their fourth consecutive winning season under Dan Mullen, the first time that has happened in Starkville since the Jackie Sherrill-led Bulldogs did it from 1997-2000.
Offensive MVP: Senior offensive guard Gabe Jackson was the best interior offensive lineman in the league and a rock for the Bulldogs. But without Prescott, the Bulldogs would have been in huge trouble this season. The sophomore quarterback led Mississippi State in rushing (829 yards) and passing (1,940 yards), and his 13 rushing touchdowns topped all SEC quarterbacks. He also displayed remarkable courage, playing through injuries and his mother’s death during the season after she lost her battle with cancer.
Defensive MVP: Senior safety Nickoe Whitley was a catalyst for a Mississippi State defense that played lights out down the stretch and allowed just three touchdowns in its final three games. Whitley was fourth on the team with 44 total tackles. He was also among the league leaders with five interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Best moment: Easy call here. Prescott’s 3-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 in overtime brought the Egg Bowl trophy back to Starkville. It was Mississippi State’s third win in the last four years against rival Ole Miss.
Worst moment: All six of the Bulldogs’ losses came to teams that finished in the Top 25 in the final polls. The only one of those that was ugly was the 59-26 home loss to LSU. The Bulldogs were outscored 31-3 in the second half on their way to giving up the most points of the Mullen era.