In just four full seasons, Dan Mullen has revitalized and reenergized the Mississippi State fan base. From the moment of his introduction on Dec. 10, 2008 as the 32nd head coach in school history, supporters have turned out in record numbers and capacity crowds to support the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State fans have sold out a school-record 23 consecutive home games at Davis Wade Stadium. Each of the last three years has seen the school’s attendance record broken. In fact, 19 of the school’s top 20 crowds have occurred in the last four seasons, with all seven crowds in 2012 ranking in the top 25 all-time. The Bulldog faithful have gone on to watch the head coach lead the Maroon and White’s football program to three-straight postseason bowl wins for the second time in the 113-year history of the program.
Just four years into his tenure, Mullen (.569) is already the winningest coach at State since the late Darrell Royal in 1954-55 (.600), and is already tied for fourth in school history for wins by a MSU head coach (29). On top of that, Mullen has dominated the Egg Bowl rivalry (3-1), becoming just the second MSU coach and the first since Sid Robinson from 1917-19 to start off 3-0 against Ole Miss in the Battle for the Golden Egg.
Mullen was widely regarded as one of the top young minds in college football when he arrived at Mississippi State, and he brought not only an impressive offensive resume and a list of NFL-developed quarterbacks, but also an energy and passion for the college game.
In 2010, State won six games in a row in the middle of the season and finished among the top 10 in school history in the following categories - passing yardage, completion percentage, passing touchdowns, rushing attempts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, total plays, total offensive yards, per-game offense and first downs. The defense also amassed the 10th-highest sack total in school annals.
The 2010 Bulldogs closed out the season with nine victories including posting the largest margin of victory in a bowl game in school history. The resounding 52-14 Gator Bowl win against Michigan capped a truly remarkable year.
With the nation’s toughest schedule in 2009, State’s rushing attack, led by first-team all-Southeastern Conference selection and current NFL running back Anthony Dixon, finished ninth nationally with a 227.6 rushing yard average per game. State averaged 371.9 yards of total offense per game, the ninth-highest total in school history and the most since 2000 at the time.
Mullen’s first season concluded with a rousing 41-27 victory over MSU’s in-state rival, which brought the Golden Egg back to Starkville. He became the only the third Mississippi State coach to win his Egg Bowl debut since 1939, joining Allyn McKeen and Jackie Sherrill. The Bulldogs posted a 5-7 overall record in 2009, including three road victories.
During the previous four seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Florida, Mullen molded a Heisman Trophy, Davey O’Brien and Maxwell Award-winning quarterback, along with a Rimington Trophy finalist and a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist.
In 2008 alone, Mullen’s offensive attack ranked third nationally in scoring – averaging better than 45 points per game as the Gators scored at least 30 points in 12-of-13 games. The 587 points scored eclipsed the previous University of Florida mark, set in 1996.
Florida rushed for a school-record 41 touchdowns that season and UF’s 80 rushing touchdowns over the two seasons ranked second nationally Overall, Florida’s rushing yardage of 2,987 ranked ninth nationally in 2008 and was the third-highest total in school history.
Seven offensive players were recognized as All-Southeastern Conference selections following the season in which Mullen helped UF claim its second SEC Championship and a chance to play for its second national championship in three seasons.
The Gator offense ranked first in the SEC in scoring offense and total offense for a second-straight season in 2008, averaging 45.2 points and 442.4 yards per game. Under Mullen’s tutelage in 2007, UF averaged 42.5 points and 457.2 yards.
In 2007, Mullen directed the Gator offense to the third-highest point total ever by a UF unit and the top single-season marks for rushing touchdowns and third-down conversion percentage. Florida’s offense scored 75 touchdowns, second most in the SEC.
Mullen orchestrated a UF attack that was the only one in the nation to have rushed for a touchdown and passed for a touchdown in every game during the season. He also helped UF score on 83-of-152 drives in 2007 for a league-best 54.6 percent, marking the best number since the stat was tracked by the SEC in 2000. Florida additionally averaged 7.0 yards per play that year, the fourth-best total in the nation. Lastly, the Gators averaged 5.3 yards per rush, the second-best number in school history.
In 2007, Mullen helped coach sophomore quarterback and current NFL star Tim Tebow into a Heisman Trophy, Maxwell and Davey O’Brien award winner, 78th Sullivan Award winner and AP first-team All-American among other honors.
He also tutored six offensive players to the All-SEC team: Tebow, NFL Pro Bowler Percy Harvin, Cornelius Ingram, Brandon James, Jim Tartt and Drew Miller.
Mullen played an integral role in Florida’s 2006 national championship, overseeing an offense that averaged 29.7 points and 396.1 yards per game. In the BCS National Championship Game, he engineered an attack that produced 41 points against a top-ranked Ohio State squad that was limiting opponents to less than 11 points per game on the year. Under Mullen’s tutelage, quarterback Chris Leak opened the contest by going 9-for-9 for 99 yards and a touchdown en route to earning Offensive MVP honors.
The 2006 Gator offense posted 76 plays of 20 yards or more, 19 of which went for touchdowns. Florida passed for 29 touchdowns in 2006, while Leak ranked among the national leaders with 23 scoring tosses. Tebow matched UF’s then single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with eight scores, and his 5.3 yards per carry average placed second nationally among signal callers. Six different players averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry.
In 2005, Chad Jackson played his way to Biletnikoff Award semifinalist status after matching the UF single-season record with 88 receptions, a figure that led the SEC and finished sixth nationally. Center Mike Degory was also named a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation’s top center, during that campaign. Both earned first-team All-SEC honors under Mullen’s tutelage.
Mullen went to Florida from Utah with Head Coach Urban Meyer, with whom he had spent 10 seasons. While the quarterbacks coach at Utah, Mullen developed current NFL star Alex Smith – the first overall selection in the 2005 NFL Draft – from a pocket passer into an efficient executor of the spread, making him one of the most versatile threats in college football. Smith took over the starting job three games into Mullen’s tenure, passing for 2,247 yards and running for 452 to finish second in the Mountain West in total offense in 2003.
The 2004 campaign saw Smith earn National Player of the Year honors from The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated, while also becoming Utah’s first-ever Heisman Trophy finalist. Smith also garnered final consideration for the Davey O’Brien and Walter Camp National Player of the Year Awards. Smith passed for 2,952 yards and 32 touchdowns and ran for 631 yards and 10 scores on the year, ranking second in the nation with a 176.5 efficiency rating and leading the Utes to a perfect 12-0 season and a Fiesta Bowl championship. As a team, Utah finished the 2004 season third in the nation in scoring offense (45.3) and total offense (499.8).
Prior to his stint at Utah, Mullen served as quarterbacks’ coach at Bowling Green for two seasons, putting up 6,627 yards of total offense and scoring 81 touchdowns during that span. In 2002, quarterback Josh Harris threw for 2,425 yards, ran for 737 yards and completed the campaign as the nation’s third-leading scorer.
Mullen spent the two years before his Bowling Green stint as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame, and before that assisted with Syracuse’s 1998 BIG EAST championship and Orange Bowl run.