STARKVILLE, Miss. >> Dak Prescott threw two touchdown passes, added three Tebow-style TD runs, and No. 12 Mississippi State overwhelmed No. 6 Texas A&M 48-31 on Saturday as a new contender emerged in the SEC West.
The Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) jumped out to a 28-7 lead in the first half and never let Kenny Hill and the high-scoring Aggies (5-1, 2-1) get close enough to threaten the lead — or quiet the Bulldogs fans and their clanging cowbells at Davis Wade Stadium.
Hill threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns, but was picked off three times by linebacker Richie Brown, who matched a school record.
Prescott first plowed into the end zone for two short TDs and pretty much sealed the deal for the Bulldogs with an 11-yard quarterback draw to make it 48-17 in the fourth quarter. The junior finished 19 for 25 for 264 yards and ran for 77 yards.
Prescott entered this season as a fringe Heisman Trophy candidate, but is way more than that now. He wears the same No. 15 Tim Tebow did at Florida, runs the same offense and plays for the same coach — Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, who was offensive coordinator for the Gators. And he’s putting up Tebow-like numbers.
Mississippi State has only won the SEC West once since the league broke into divisions in 1992. The Bulldogs have spent far more time near the bottom of the division than the top, but Mullen has an experienced and talented team around a spectacular quarterback.
The Bulldogs showed beating LSU for the first time in 15 years a couple weeks ago was no fluke. They dominated A&M in almost every way. Josh Robinson ran for 107 yards and two scores and linebacker Benardrick McKinney helped harass Hill.
Hail State, indeed. When the new AP Top 25 comes out Sunday, Mississippi State will likely be in the top 10 for the first time since 1999.
A&M scored on its first offensive series, zipping down the field with ease and make it 7-0 on a 13-yard pass from Hill to Josh Reynolds.
Mississippi State’s response was a 75-yard touchdown drive capped by Robinson’s 1-yard run. Less than five minutes in it was 7-7 and the back-and-forth affair expected between two of the best offenses in the country seemed underway.
But only the Bulldogs kept it up. Robinson’s second short scoring run made it 14-7 late in the first quarter and Prescott pushed through tacklers for a 2-yard TD with 8:33 left in the second to make it 21-7.
The clanging cowbells might have been loud enough to hear 90 miles up the road in Oxford, where No. 3 Alabama and No. 11 Mississippi are the second game of the Magnolia State’s monster twin bill on Saturday.
It had been almost 28 years since Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville was the site of a top-15 matchup. That one didn’t go too well for the Bulldogs (Auburn 35-6). This time the partying that started pre-dawn in “Starkvegas” because of the 11 a.m. local kickoff never stopped.
Brown’s second interception of Hill in a span of five plays set up Mississippi State at the Aggies’ 48 with 4:39 left in the second quarter.
Eight plays later, Prescott fired a low strike to De’Runnya Wilson for a 9-yard score and a 28-7 lead.
Prescott’s next Tebow-esque touchdown run, a 2-yard bull rush in the third quarter, made it 34-10. A&M blocked the point after kick and then responded with a touchdown of its own.
Freshman Speedy Noil went up high to make a grab a few yards in front of the goal line, and then spun and stretched the ball to pylon. The highlight-reel play cut the lead to 34-17 with 3:33 left in the third.
Just when it looked as A&M might have some life, Mississippi State unleashed another Dak attack.
Prescott zipped a deep out toward the sideline for Fred Brown, who reached high for the grab, slipped away from a tackler and went 51 yards for the score.
Prescott sprinted down field to congratulate his receiver in the end zone with a slap on the helmet.
There’s half a season to play and a bunch of huge games still to play in the SEC West, starting next week when Auburn comes to Starkville.
But for now Mississippi State is a contender, Prescott is a Heisman candidate and the college football world is about to hear a lot more cowbell.