December 30, 2014 10:41:06 AM
n 1. Mississippi State football reaches No. 1: For the first time in the 114-year history of its football program, Mississippi State found itself looking down on the rest of the country. On Oct. 12, one day after MSU earned a 38-23 victory against then-No. 2 Auburn, MSU ascended to the No. 1 ranking in the Amway Coaches Poll (USA Today) and The Associated Press Top 25, passing Florida State in both polls to nab the top spot. The Bulldogs later added top billing in the College Football Playoff Selection Committee's weekly top 25, an honor MSU maintained for five weeks.
n 2. The Voice of the Bulldogs passes away: In early September, MSU lost its voice. Jack Cristil, who served as MSU's play-by-play broadcaster for football and basketball for more than 50 years, passed away in his hometown of Tupelo. Cristil was 88. Cristil, who took over play-by-play duties for MSU in 1953, called more than 2,000 games in his 58-year career. He is a member of the Mississippi State and Mississippi Sports Halls of Fame.
n 3. Bulldogs head to third Orange Bowl: MSU's historic football season will have a fitting end. For the third time in school history, and the first time in 73 years, MSU qualified to play in the Orange Bowl, which will be Wednesday night at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. MSU accepted an invitation to one of the country's most prestigious bowls after tying a school record with 10 regular-season wins. A victory against win Atlantic Coast Conference foe Georgia Tech would give the Bulldogs an 11-2 season, another program first.
n 4. Bulldogs announce plans for new Polk Dement Stadium: The biggest news regarding MSU baseball this year didn't occur on the diamond. Instead, it took place in the media room of MSU's Seal Football Complex, where MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricken announced a renovation of Polk Dement Stadium. Plans include a new double-tiered grandstand, an elevated concourse that encircles the playing field and allows a constant view of the playing surface, welcoming entry plazas, and dozens of other changes.
n 5. MSU wins in Baton Rouge: While the football season started with a 49-0 win against Southern Mississippi on Aug. 30, MSU's march took form Sept. 20 at LSU. That's where junior quarterback Dak Prescott, a Louisiana native, accounted for 367 yards and three touchdowns to help MSU end a 14-game losing streak to then-No. 8 LSU with a 34-29 win. It was MSU's first win in Death Valley since 1991, and was the first of three consecutive wins against top-10 teams, a stretch that propelled the Bulldogs to the top of the national polls.
n 6. Women's basketball team off to hot start: While MSU's women's basketball team finished the 2013-14 season on a high note by advancing to the quarterfinals of the Women's National Invitation Tournament, the Bulldogs saved their best for the start of the new season. With a convincing home win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Monday night, coach Vic Schaefer's team improved to 15-0 and climbed to No. 17 in The Associated Press poll. MSU is one of four unbeaten teams remaining in Division I.
n 7. Bulldog baseball reaches Lafayette regional: As an encore to a College World Series runner-up finish in 2013, the baseball team found itself in the postseason once again in 2014. The Bulldogs finished 39-24 and 18-12 in the Southeastern Conference, which tied for third. That landed the Bulldogs a No. 2 seed at a regional hosted by Louisiana-Lafayette. After moving into the winner's bracket early on, MSU dropped two straight to the tournament hosts and was eliminated, but the Bulldogs qualified for their fourth NCAA Regional berth in a row under coach John Cohen.
n 8. Prescott makes his name: Entering the season, Prescott finally had the starting quarterback job at MSU to himself. After splitting the role with Tyler Russell in 2013, Prescott burst onto the national scene as a junior, crashing the Heisman Trophy race by leading MSU to victories against three top-10 opponents in a row. Prescott came out of that stretch in the national conversation for the award and saw pictures of himself on the cover of national publications like ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated. Though late-season losses cost him a shot at the Heisman, Prescott still finished eighth in the voting, the highest finis for a Bulldog.
n 9. Women's golf finishes sixth in country; announces partnership with Old Waverly: The women's golf team, under fifth-year coach Ginger Brown-Lemm, made it to No. 1 in the country for the fall season. To get there, MSU used its highest national finish at the NCAA Championship tournament in May. Behind Fulton native Ally McDonald, the Bulldogs finished No. 6 nationally. This past spring, the university announced Old Waverly Golf Club, one of the South's premier gold destinations in West Point and home to the 1999 U.S. Women's Open, will become the new home of the men's and women's teams. The facility will feature a 6,300-square foot clubhouse with locker rooms, players' lounge, coaches' offices, and an indoor putting center.
n 10. Softball team reaches third-straight regional: Under third-year coach Vann Stuedeman, MSU's softball program began to take off, winning 39 games (No. 3 in program history), including eight (second most in a season) against ranked opponents. The Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA tournament for the third-straight year for the first time since 2007-09, and had three-consecutive 30-win seasons for the first time since 1998-2008.
-- Brandon Walker
1. Day of the Dawgs: Johnson ties for third place; MSU fifth COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Diamond Dawgs outlast Texas Southern for victory COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Bulldogs aim for gold finish on USA trip to Italy COLLEGE SPORTS
4. MSU sophomore Aubree Jones leads Bulldogs to SEC tourney COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Starkville's Outlaw, Brown sign on for college hoops HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS