New Florida football coach Dan Mullen is hoping to elevate the Gators and return the program to its past heights, which will take work as he inherits a team coming off an adversity-filled 4-7 season.
But Mullen is no stranger to reclamation projects.
Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin called Mullen’s success at Mississippi State over the last nine years “historic on so many levels.”
Prior to Mullen’s arrival in Starkville, Miss., the Bulldogs had won 4 or fewer games in seven of the previous eight seasons. They had only one season with more than 8 wins in the 28 years before he was hired.
In his time there, Mullen produced a 10-win season, 2 9-win seasons, 2 8-win seasons and made the Bulldogs relevant again in the national rankings.
There were dips, ebbs and flows along the way, but always followed by more highlights and notable wins.
“I had a lot of the same people who are mad at me in Mississippi right now, there were times during Dan’s tenure where they were banging on me saying, ‘Do we need to change course here?’ Because the season wasn’t going quite as well as we wanted,” Stricklin said. “I would look at what he was doing and how he was going about, how he was running the program and had so much confidence in him. We’re going to do the same thing here. I don’t know what the record’s going to look like next year, but I know that if we’re patient and three or four years, five years down the road, we’re going to be competing for championships.”
As Gators fans wait for the Dan Mullen Era to debut next fall in Gainesville, here’s a look back at his most notable wins from his nine seasons at Mississippi State from 10 to 1.
10. Mississippi State 55, Ole Miss 20 in 2016
A pivotal Egg Bowl triumph for Mullen, who started 5-3 in the rivalry series before a crushing loss this year.
Last season, both teams needed to win the regular-season finale to gain bowl eligibility along with bragging rights for the year. Mullen’s Bulldogs left no doubt, winning by 35 points to snag a bowl invite with just 5 wins before finishing with a win over Miami of Ohio in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
9. Mississippi State 35, No. 7 Texas A&M 28 in 2016
Last season was not one of Mullen’s best as the Bulldogs finished 6-7, but they proved nonetheless that they couldn’t be overlooked.
Despite four of its previous five FBS games, Mississippi State stunned visiting No. 7 Texas A&M for the highlight win of the season.
As was a theme in many of Mullen’s big wins, the Bulldogs started fast taking a 28-7 lead and never letting go. Nick Fitzgerald, the successor at quarterback to Dak Prescott, rushed for 182 yards and 2 TDs and passed for 209 yards and 2 TDs in the victory.
8. Mississippi State 10, No. 22 Florida 7 in 2010
In Mullen’s second season at Mississippi State, he returned to The Swamp, where he had spent four seasons as the offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer.
Mullen’s first game against his former boss hadn’t gone so well the year before as Florida won, 29-19, in Starkville, but this time the protege got the best of the master in a 10-7 win.
It was the fourth of six straight wins for the Bulldogs and was another of the games that helped signify Mullen’s program was on its way.
7. No. 21 Mississippi State 52, Michigan 14 in the Gator Bowl after the 2010 season
This was one of the games that let the college football world know Mullen was building something in Starkville.
Mississippi State had played in 1 bowl game over the previous 9 seasons, but it would start a bowl streak in Mullen’s second year while reaching the postseason every subsequent season. Overall, he was 5-2 in bowl games with this the most impressive of the lot.
The win over Michigan also gave the Bulldogs their first season of at least 9 wins since 1999.
6. Mississippi State 37, No. 12 LSU 7 in 2017
Mullen’s final Bulldogs team scored some blowout wins this fall while peaking at No. 16 in the national rankings.
The best of those wins was the demolition of LSU in mid-September as Mississippi State scored the final 30 points of the game after an early 7-7 tie. Overall, the Bulldogs finished with a 465-270 edge in offensive yards.
5. Mississippi State 17, Ole Miss 10 in OT in 2013
The 2013 Bulldogs were rebuilding during Prescott’s first season as the starting quarterback and needed a strong finish just to get bowl eligible.
They kept those hopes alive with an overtime win at Arkansas to move to 5-6 heading into the annual Egg Bowl with Ole Miss, which was enjoying a strong season at 7-4 entering the game.
Mississippi State got a late field goal to force overtime, scored first in overtime on a Prescott fourth-down touchdown run and then forced a fumble from Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace on what appeared to be a game tying touchdown. The Bulldogs recovered to seal the win and gain bowl eligibility.
4. No. 11 Mississippi State 48, No. 6 Texas A&M 31 in 2014
Another game from Mullen’s peak 2014 season. The Bulldogs followed the high of that breakthrough win at LSU with a dominant showing back home against Texas A&M.
This time, Mississippi State fell behind by a touchdown early, but it rattled off the next 28 points to take control in the second quarter.
Florida fans will hope Mullen can recruit a quarterback to Gainesville like he had in Prescott, who was 20-of-26 passing for 268 yards and 2 TDs while also rushing for 77 yards and 3 TDs in this win.
3. Mississippi State 41, No. 25 Ole Miss 27 in 2009
Mullen’s first season was expectedly tough as his team started 4-7 heading into the finale against rival Ole Miss.
The Rebels were 8-3 at that time as they visited Starkville for the annual Egg Bowl, but Mullen’s Mississippi State program would score its first win over a ranked opponent and fire up the fan base heading into the offseason with the momentous upset.
2. Mississippi State 34, No. 8 LSU 29 in 2014
This is the win that first made everyone take notice of the force Prescott and Mississippi State would be that season. After cruising through comfortable wins over Southern Miss, UAB and South Alabama, the Bulldogs traveled to Baton Rouge, La., to take on the highly regarded Tigers in one of college football’s tougher road environments.
Mississippi State took a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter and weathered a late LSU comeback bid to close out the victory.
That snapped a 14-year losing streak in the series for the Bulldogs and pushed them from unranked to No. 11.
1. No. 3 Mississippi State 38, No. 2 Auburn 23 in 2014
Mississippi State had started the season 5-0 while generating national buzz after back-to-back wins over No. 8 LSU and No. 6 Texas A&M to lead into a mid-October showdown with No. 2 Auburn in Starkville.
The Prescott-led Bulldogs took a 21-0 first quarter lead and stayed in control the rest of the way while pulling off perhaps the biggest win in program history.
With the 3 straight wins over top-8 opponents, Mississippi State vaulted to its first No. 1 national ranking while going on to the third 10-win season in program history.
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