November 19, 2012 10:00:58 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University football coach Dan Mullen never misses an opportunity to tweak the school he refuses to name, especially the week he's scheduled to play the in-state rival.
Mullen can become the first MSU coach since Allyn McKeen from 1939-42 to win four straight games against the University of Mississippi when the teams meet at 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU) in the annual Egg Bowl matchup.
Mullen knows some fans in the Magnolia State would like him to suffer his first setback in the rivalry after leading the Bulldogs to victories in his first three attempts in a game he calls "the most important of our season."
"I think since the day I've got here they've wanted to get a win against me," Mullen said when asked about Ole Miss. "We're going to be expecting it to be a loud, hostile environment just like wherever you go in this league -- probably more so because the fact that it is a big rivalry game."
Mullen still refuses to refer to Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) by name, and has become famous for his "the school up north" nickname.
On July 18 at the Southeastern Conference Media Day in Hoover, Ala., MSU senior cornerback Johnthan Banks guaranteed victory against Ole Miss.
"We're going to win the Egg Bowl for the fourth year in a row," Banks told the media at the Wynfrey Hotel.
Despite the inability to break through about the top teams in the Western Division, Mullen has emphasized the Egg Bowl since he arrived in Starkville.
"It's just something coach Mullen made sure was the number one priority when he took over here," MSU junior quarterback Tyler Russell said. "We still have the clock in the locker room, and we look at it every day. We're reminded of the importance of that game on our schedule every day we show up at the facility."
Dak attack part of the normal offense
MSU backup quarterback Dak Prescott's effectiveness in short-yardage situations has helped him become a fan favorite and a favorite of his teammates.
In a fourth-down situation Saturday, Mullen used a timeout in the third quarter to make sure the Bulldogs were prepared. He wasn't sure MSU needed to go for it, and laughed with the media after the game that he needed to know if his overaggressive nature wasn't overshadowing the moment.
"I want to go for it every time, and then I have to remember I'm the head coach and have to make smart decisions sometimes," Mullen said. "The result is the important thing, but if you make it, it's a smart decision, and if you don't, it's a dumb decision, right?"
Prescott was put into the game for the first time in the situation because of his ability to run up the middle. The redshirt freshman pushed the line forward so much on fourth-and-1 that he scored on a 4-yard touchdown draw. Mullen said the play was a formation all 11 players voted for when given the option of two calls.
"The thought is to get the first down there and it resulted in a touchdown," Mullen said.
Prescott had 37 total yards and was 2-for-2 in the passing game. His score marked the second straight game he found the end zone.
"Tyler ran off the field and said, 'Put Dak in because Dak will be able to get that first down,' " Prescott said. "That's a lot coming from a guy like that who is like a big brother to me."
Bulldogs back in the national rankings
MSU (8-3, 4-3 in SEC) moved out of The Associated Press and the USA Today rankings for a week after it lost three straight games to programs ranked in the top 10.
MSU moved back into the polls this week after a 45-14 victory against the University of Arkansas on Saturday. MSU is No. 25 in The AP poll and No. 24 in the USA Today poll. MSU wasn't ranked in the Bowl Championship Series top 25.