Open dates in college football often are welcome for teams seeking overdue rest or having injured players needing to heal.
In the case of Mississippi State this week, the time off is allowing some additional savoring of Saturday's 34-29 win at then-eighth-ranked LSU. The triumph by the Bulldogs was their first over the Tigers since 1999, and it was their first in Baton Rouge since 1991, the year before the Southeastern Conference added Arkansas and South Carolina and became a 12-member collection.
"I'm really proud of the way our kids performed," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said in a news conference after the game. "We're going to enjoy this bye week."
Mississippi State, which set a program record last season with a fourth consecutive bowl invitation, has a fifth within reach with its 4-0 start. The Bulldogs are 4-0 for the second time in three years, but the 2012 team got walloped down the stretch by Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss and finished a disappointing 8-5.
By winning before more than 102,000 fans at Tiger Stadium, this year's bunch has knocked off a top-10 West Division foe for the first time under Mullen and was rewarded with a No. 14 ranking in the Associated Press poll. Mullen is 40-28 nearing the midway mark of his sixth season in Starkville and is 4-1 in the Egg Bowl rivalry, but his record against Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M had been 1-16 entering last weekend.
"This was a big win for everybody, especially Coach Mullen," said junior quarterback Dak Prescott, who scorched LSU with 268 passing yards, 105 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.
Mississippi State's two biggest weapons against LSU, Prescott and junior tailback Josh Robinson, hail from Louisiana, and they displayed emotion about that in interviews after the game. Robinson rushed 16 times against LSU for 197 yards and a touchdown.
Prescott and Robinson were Rivals.com three-star prospects who committed to MSU on consecutive days in July 2010, with Prescott choosing the Bulldogs over FBS members Memphis and North Texas and FCS schools McNeese State and Northwestern State.
"This is exactly what I wanted to do when I committed to Mississippi State," Prescott said. "I stayed true to my teammates and coaches, and we got it done."
Said Robinson: "I've been dreaming about this since I was 10."
The most surprising aspect to Saturday's upset was that it was close. The Bulldogs racked up 570 yards of total offense and had 302 rushing yards to just 89 for LSU.
Mississippi State bolted to a 17-0 lead, and after LSU struck early in the third quarter when Tigers defensive end Danielle Hunter returned a Prescott fumble 25 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-10, the Bulldogs responded with another 17-0 run.
"I don't know for the guys in the locker room if this is a really big upset for us," Mullen said. "Obviously it is on the national stage, but I really felt our guys believed that if we came in here and did our job that we would win the game. We controlled both lines of scrimmage, and we made big plays in one-on-one matchups."
Mississippi State had three touchdown drives covering at least 75 yards that took less than two minutes and five seconds. Prescott passed to De'Runnya Wilson for gains of 26 and 44 yards to help the Bulldogs zip 98 yards in five plays for a 14-0 lead, and a 56-yard Prescott scoring run enabled MSU to reclaim a two-touchdown advantage following LSU's defensive score.
The Bulldogs went up 31-10 in the third quarter on a 74-yard touchdown pass from a scrambling Prescott to a left-alone Jameon Lewis.
"I felt like they threw the ball laterally and made us spread, and that opened up some running lanes inside," LSU coach Les Miles said in his postgame radio interview. "We did not get off blocks well, and the lengths of drives that they had were due to big plays that our coverage usually eats up. Those plays will haunt us when we look at the film."
Mississippi State can move forward no longer haunted by futility against LSU. Mullen said the objective this week is to review the first four games and make the necessary tweaks for the weeks ahead.
The Bulldogs will resume with their two biggest home tests of the season -- No. 6 Texas A&M on Oct. 4 and No. 5 Auburn on Oct. 11. They will be without center Dillon Day for the Texas A&M game after Day was suspended Tuesday by the SEC for "multiple flagrant and unsportsmanlike acts" against LSU.
"When I came here, I wanted to build a program that could compete for championships," Mullen said. "It's certainly not easy to do in the SEC West. I've been talking about going to Atlanta [for the SEC title game] for six years now, and we're 1-0 in our division.
"These next two games are against teams that are ranked higher than LSU was, and Alabama is higher-ranked than those two."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.