The pseudo-home team started slow, Dak Prescott finished his career strong and Mississippi State took care of business with a convincing 51-28 win over NC State in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina.
What the win means for Mississippi State: Nick Saban wasn't 100 percent accurate when he lamented on Wednesday how we've entered an era where it's playoff-or-bust when determining whether a season was successful or not. That may be true for some programs but not all. Just look at Mississippi State. After beating NC State in the Belk Bowl, who is calling 2015 a lost year? Nine wins is a clear success when you factor in the Bulldogs' youth and all that they lost from the season before, including three offensive linemen and their star running back. Sure, Dan Mullen didn't win the SEC, but he won enough to deserve a round of applause, rather than a kick in the pants.
What the loss means for NC State: There's no excuse for such a slow start by NC State. After all, the Belk Bowl was practically a home game for the Wolfpack. To fall behind 21-0 early in the second quarter was inexcusable and ultimately too big of a hole to climb out from. But it's nothing new for NC State, which ended the regular season the same way by giving up 35 points to North Carolina in the first quarter. While coach Dave Doeren appears to have the program pointed in the right direction overall, he might want to take a long look at the fact that entering the Belk Bowl, the Wolfpack was minus-1 in scoring margin in the first half of Power 5 games.
Unsung heroes: With the exception of a few big plays, Mississippi State's defense was solid against NC State, especially along the front seven. It started with an interception from linebacker Gerri Green on the very first play from scrimmage, and it ended with fellow linebackers Beniquez Brown and Richie Brown getting consistent pressure on QB Jacoby Brissett, helping limit him to less than 50 percent passing.
Player of the game: Prescott wasn't going to leave Mississippi State on a down note. Not after five years of wearing maroon and developing from a raw prospect to an All-SEC quarterback and arguably the most important player in school history. The senior from Haughton, Louisiana, made the most of his final game as a Bulldog, turning in one of the best individual performances of his career against NC State, despite poor playing conditions due to heavy rains. Prescott, who will have some work to do to show scouts that he can be an NFL quarterback, finished the game with more than 400 total yards and four touchdowns. In doing so, he became only the fourth player in FBS history to finish his career with 9,000 yards passing and 2,500 yards rushing.