LEXINGTON, Ky. – On the cusp of his first 200-yard rushing game, Mississippi State junior running back Josh Robinson pleaded with coach Dan Mullen for one more carry.
Mullen's matter-of-fact response could motivate Robinson, who finished with a career-best 198-yard, two-touchdown performance in the top-ranked Bulldogs' wild 45-31 victory on Saturday.
"He had 203 yards and lost five and he was yelling at me when we were in the victory formation because he was 2 yards away," Mullen said. "I told him he should've got 2 yards earlier in the game. He had 59 minutes to get that done, but he's done a great job of running the football for us all season long and making some big plays."
Mississippi State (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) made a number of big plays in its first game as the nation's top team. Playing an improved Kentucky squad that wouldn't go away before a loud homecoming crowd on national TV, the Bulldogs showed their resolve by answering with timely scores to keep a two-touchdown advantage.
Mississippi State's reward coming off a bye was its 10th straight victory dating back to last season and a possible perch atop this week's first college playoff standings. The Bulldogs lead the SEC West following Mississippi's 10-7 loss at LSU.
Next up for Mississippi State is Saturday's home date with Arkansas, which also lit up the scoreboard in its 45-17 win over UAB.
"Hopefully, we can get all this ranking stuff behind us," Mullen said. "I don't know where we'll rank. You can drop us if you want or you can raise us, I don't really care (about) any of that now. I think our kids are going to be over it now."
Robinson, meanwhile, might just be warming up.
Mississippi State's top rusher is just 113 yards from 1,000 after his fourth 100-yard game this season and second flirtation with the 200-yard mark. Robinson's previous career best was 197 yards on 16 carries in a victory at LSU last month.
Robinson showed his strength and speed in a momentum-changing 73-yard touchdown run with 11:47 remaining that put the Bulldogs up 38-24. He also got them started toward a 326-yard rushing performance with a 12-yard TD run on the opening drive.
"I was just doing what I do," said the 5-foot-9, 215-pounder nicknamed 'Bowling Ball.' "They were a great defense, but we did what we do. I just use my center of gravity to my advantage."
Robinson's running complemented another dual-talent performance by quarterback Dak Prescott, a Heisman Trophy hopeful. Kentucky sacked him three times and intercepted him once, but Prescott still chipped in two TDs rushing and another one passing in finishing with 304 yards of total offense.
The QB praised Robinson for being a formidable option, saying, "Josh is going to open it up."
Mississippi State's defense now aims to shut things down better against Arkansas than against Kentucky. Wildcats QB Patrick Towles threw for 390 yards with TD passes of 67 and 58 yards; he also ran for 48 yards to set up his 4-yard TD run that brought them within 38-31 with 2:31 left.
Mullen wasn't happy that the Bulldogs allowed 504 yards but took heart in his defense stopping Kentucky when it needed to. Doing so opened the door for the nation's ninth-ranked offense (531.4 yards) to finish with 542 yards and create some breathing room on the scoreboard.
Robinson isn't concerned about if he'll rush for 200 yards for the first time since high school. He figures to be getting more opportunities to carry the ball, so it's a matter of when.
"I just gotta make it happen," Robinson said. "It was a great team win is all that really matters. We came out with a W. We faced adversity early and in the fourth quarter, but we came out on top."