November 24, 2017 10:15:15 AM
STARKVILLE -- Minutes after Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen missed a shot at his 70th win, he again had to address questions about his name being mentioned as a possibility at other schools.
In the last month, Florida, Tennessee, and UCLA have fired head coaches. More moves reportedly are coming, and Mullen has been listed as a candidate.
Will Mullen get another chance at win No. 70 in Starkville? He says yes.
After a 31-28 loss to Ole Miss on Thursday, Mullen said he doesn't have plans to take any of the openings out there.
"I plan on it," Mullen said when asked if he will be MSU's coach next season. "As I said, I'm very, very happy here. I'm happy with what we've built, I have a great president (Mark Keenum) and great administration. You look at our fan base and the program we've built, I think it's pretty special. I'm fortunate to be the head coach and (athletic director) John (Cohen) and Dr. Keenum have both told me they want me to continue to be the head coach here -- before the game they did, we'll see what they say right now.
"That's something I'll talk with them about in the next coming days. What we're going to continue to do is build the program in the right direction."
The first time was supposed to be it.
When senior wide receiver Gabe Myles went down with a foot injury and missed MSU's first three Southeastern Conference games, he entered the bye week expecting to play out his final season. That lasted all of two games.
From there, his focus shifted to being able to play in the Battle for the Golden Egg.
Myles made that happen, seeing time at wide receiver and punt returner on his Senior Day. He ended the game without a catch and stressed to teammates after the game not to take their time as Bulldogs for granted.
Tried but failed
Fresh off a touchdown pass from Keytaon Thompson to Deddrick Thomas that cut MSU's deficit to 11, Mullen called an onside kick -- one in which the formation and alignment of the kicker don't give it away before contact -- and it appeared to work, as Cameron Dantzler grabbed it.
But officials ruled the ball didn't travel the 10 yards required to be eligible for recovery by the kicking team. Mullen tried to get a closer look at the play via replay, but he was turned away.
"They said they had confirmed it. I said I was going to challenge. They said they already looked and confirmed," Mullen said. "I asked if I could challenge a targeting call during the course of the game and they said no. That's a question for (SEC director of football officials) Steve Shaw, not me."
Story fills in
MSU starting left guard Darryl Williams' injury in the third quarter paved the way for Michael Story to play the rest of the game.
Mullen didn't have any information on Williams' injury after the game.
MSU left tackle Martinas Rankin said the offensive line felt comfortable with him in the game.
"He's been there before. He's had to get thrown into games before," Rankin said. "It wasn't new to him."
Last time for Dr. Collins
Dr. Robert Collins, MSU's head team physician for the last 41 years, worked his final game Thursday at Davis Wade Stadium. He is retiring after the bowl game. Collins also ran the on-campus student health center, but he retired from that duty a few years ago.
He was honored before the game with a framed jersey with No. 41 on it.
School dedicates Dowsing-Bell Plaza in honor of MSU athletics pioneers
A new plaza at Davis Wade Stadium now commemorates the legacy of MSU's first African-American student-athletes, Frank Dowsing Jr. and Robert Bell.
MSU officials held a dedication ceremony Thursday to dedicate Dowsing-Bell Plaza, located on the north side of Davis Wade Stadium. The plaza includes a plaque detailing the on- and off-field legacies of Bell and Dowsing, both of whom played football at MSU from 1969-1972.
"They came here and exemplified great courage of being the very first two African-American student-athletes in the history of this great university," MSU President Mark E. Keenum said. "Not only were they on the team, they were stars on the team and helped our program go to great heights during their tenure."
In 1969, Dowsing, a prep star from Tupelo, and Bell, a native of Meridian, enrolled at MSU and were members of the Bulldog freshman football team. A year later, they joined the varsity squad and guided MSU to its first winning season in seven years.
"Robert Bell and Frank Dowsing will forever be remembered as great teammates, scholar athletes and pioneers who changed the course of MSU history with their incredible courage," MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen said.
Dowsing was a two-time All-Southeastern Conference defensive back selection in 1971 and 1972. As a senior, Football News named him a first-team All-American. That same fall, he became the first player in MSU history to earn the honor of National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete.
Dowsing, who was voted Mr. Mississippi State in October 1972, finished his career at the time as the school's all-time leader in interceptions with 10. He died at the age of 42 on July 11, 1994.
The ceremony, taking place prior to the annual rivalry game between MSU and Ole Miss, also marked the 47th anniversary of one of Dowsing's most memorable moments as a Bulldog -- an interception in the end zone to seal a 19-14 victory for MSU in the 1970 Egg Bowl.
Bell, an inspirational leader on the defensive line, was a regular starter and a fan favorite. An honor student at Meridian High School, he went on to earn three letters for the Bulldogs.
This and that
Jeffery Simmons blocked his third kick of the season on a punt attempt in the second half. MSU leads the SEC with 15 blocks on special teams since 2014. ... Aeris Williams eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. He has 1,019 yards. It is the first 1,000-yard rushing season of his career and the first by a MSU running back since Josh Robinson in 2014. In the Mullen era, MSU has produced 13 1,000-yard rushers. ... Ole Miss recorded multiple 60-yard touchdown passes for the third time this season, the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision ... The rest of the SEC has one.
Special Reports were included in this story.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson