High Expectations | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

High Expectations

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Bryan Flynn

William Shakespeare wrote in "Henry IV": "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." This quote seems to apply to Mississippi State University as the team learns to live with the No. 1 ranking in the country.

Anyone who watched the team's match-up with Kentucky could tell that the Bulldogs were tense in their first game as the top-ranked team in the nation. This is uncharted territory for MSU as a program, but the team was able to hold off the Wildcats for the win.

The defense seemed to feel the weight of the ranking more than anyone—other than Dak Prescott—on the MSU bench. Kentucky scored on a 67-yard pass and a 58-yard pass, and the Bulldogs had trouble dealing with Wildcats quarterback Patrick Towles, who threw for 390 yards and ran for 78 yards with four combined touchdowns. Prescott didn't play a bad game but wasn't at his best for the Bulldogs. The MSU quarterback finished the game with 216 yards passing on 18 of 33 attempts with three touchdowns. He did add two rushing touchdowns as he ran for 88 yards on 18 carries.

As the quarterback of the No. 1 team and a Heisman favorite, it is easy to understand the pressure on Prescott, but he was still able to put together a good enough game to help lead the Bulldogs to a victory.

One player who didn't fear the weight of being No. 1 was tailback Josh Robinson, who rushed for 198 yards on 23 carries. In the third quarter, Robinson, nicknamed "Human Bowling Ball," managed a 22-yard run after evading six Kentucky defenders and dragging several more before being taken down.

The best part of the win for Mississippi State was going on the road as the No. 1 team in the country and winning. But make no mistake about it. The Wildcats were fired up to get the top-ranked team in their house. MSU is going to receive everyone's best shot each week as teams want to say that they were the one that kicked the Bulldogs off their lofty perch. This Saturday, Arkansas will go into Davis Wade Stadium looking for the major upset. Both Kentucky and Arkansas are vastly improved teams. The Razorbacks would like to break their 16-game losing streak to SEC teams against the Bulldogs.

The fact that MSU takes on the Razorbacks and Tennessee-Martin at home for the next two weeks should help as MSU players adjust to the bullseyes on their backs. By the time the team strolls into Alabama Nov. 15 to face the Crimson Tide, it should be well adjusted to its ranking.

Some folks say it is harder to handle success than failure. If that's true, then give the Bulldogs an A+. The same certainly can't be said about the Ole Miss Rebels this past week.

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