The Mississippi State Bulldogs thoroughly dominated the Conference USA Champions, the Rice Owls, in the 55th Autozone Liberty Bowl in Memphis on New Year's Eve. Though the final score read 44-7, a closer look at the statistics reveal even more domination by the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Jameon Lewis set a Liberty Bowl record with 220 receiving yards. The amount also set a single game record for a Mississippi State player. Dak Prescott finished his night 17 of 28 for 283 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran 14 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bulldogs' win proved to be the largest margin of victory in a Liberty Bowl, and the win gave Mississippi State three wins the game. The win also gave Dan Mullen three bowl victories, which gives him more than any other coach in Mississippi State history.
A few quick thoughts on the game:
1. It does not relate to football, but I love the exposure that St. Jude's gets from the Liberty Bowl. From the visits from the team to the commentary about it during the game, the stories that come from there are heartbreaking and heart-building. As someone who has had family and friends benefit from the hospital, it warms my heart to see how much attention they got this year.
2. The Bulldogs looked much different than they did in the Gator Bowl against Northwestern on January 1. The team played with a fire and enthusiasm all game, and I would guess that most of this stemmed from the way the 2013 regular season ended and the desire to not finish with a losing record.
3. Mississippi State could have let this become a close game early after giving up a fumble and watching Rice convert it into a touchdown. Instead, the Bulldogs reeled off 41 unanswered points and put the football game out of reach.
4. Seeing the Bulldogs pull out the gadget play with a hefty lead was a little surprising, but it was not something that was out of line. It is a bowl game, and there is supposed to be an element of fun to them. I would not be super happy if the Bulldogs tried that in an SEC game against a foe they will see the next year, but in this game, go for it.
5. Mississippi State could not have asked for a better end to the 2013 season. Damian Williams proved to be gritty as a true freshman, playing a large role in the Bulldogs' victories over Arkansas and Ole Miss. Dak Prescott had a magical ending to the Egg Bowl and an amazing performance in the Liberty Bowl. For the team as a whole, they go into 2014 with a shot of momentum and confidence.
6. The Bulldogs had an amazing defensive performance in the contest, and over the last few weeks, it appears that Mayhem is taking hold in Starkville.