GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Mississippi State started celebrating as soon as the kick sailed right. Players and coaches jumped up and down on the sideline, then composed themselves long enough to take a knee and make it official.
After that, coach Dan Mullen ripped off his visor and heaved it into the stands -- quite possibly the team's best throw of the night.
Mullen won't need any mementos from this victory anyway. It's not one he's likely to forget.
The Bulldogs ran early, ran late and ended up running out of the Swamp with a signature win for their second-year coach. Thanks to Vick Ballard, Chris Relf and a blitzing defense, they handed No. 22 Florida a third consecutive loss, 10-7 on Saturday night.
"This is not an upset," Mullen said. "Our team expected to win."
It sure looked that way. Mississippi State (5-2, 2-2 SEC) controlled the clock, dictated the tempo and kept Florida's mostly inept offense on the sideline.
The Gators (4-3, 2-3) lost consecutive home games for the first time since 2003 and dropped three in a row for the first time since the Steve Spurrier era. Yep, coach Urban Meyer has accomplished something that former coach Ron Zook never did.
The Bulldogs, whose victory over Florida in 2004 led to Zook's firing, won in Gainesville for the first time since 1965. They snapped a 16-game losing streak at Florida Field and left 90,000-plus wondering what happened to a program that won two of the last four national titles.
"We're not very good right now," said Meyer, whose team somehow still controls its destiny in the SEC's wacky Eastern Division.
Florida had a final drive to tie or take the lead, but Chas Henry missed a 42-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining. The Gators started at the 4-yard line with 2 minutes left and converted a fourth-down play to keep the drive alive.
But John Brantley threw a pass out of bounds to avoid a sack on third down, leaving the Gators with little chance but to try the field goal -- a long shot for a punter who is handling field goals because of a back injury to placekicker Caleb Sturgis.
"That's a lot of pressure on Chas," Florida backup quarterback Trey Burton said. "It's not his position."
Henry's kick missed way right, setting off a raucous party on Mississippi State's sideline. Players and coaches stayed on the field to sing the fight song with helmets and hands toward the sky, then ran into the locker room for even more frivolity.
The win was Mississippi State's fourth straight, the latest despite getting outgained by more than 100 yards.
Of the Bulldogs' 58 plays, 49 of them were runs -- including 24 in a row at one point. They finished with 212 yards on the ground, averaging 4.3 yards a carry.
Ballard ran for 98 yards, and Relf added 82 and a touchdown from the quarterback position. Relf's longest run, a 16-yarder, set up an early field goal. The Bulldogs kept it on the ground, and Relf found the end zone on a 6-yard scamper late in the first quarter.
Mullen's game plan wasn't shocking, especially since Florida gave up 170 yards rushing at Alabama and 161 last week against LSU. Mullen also spent four years on Meyer's staff and knows the spread-option as well as anyone, giving him plenty of insight into Florida's problems.
Winning in his return to Gainesville made it even sweeter. It might even help Mullen close the gap on Alabama, Auburn and Arkansas in the West.
"A lot of these kids that are playing, when we recruited them, they believed in something to come to school here," Mullen said. "We had a vision of what we could make this program in the future."
The Gators, meanwhile, simply look lost.
The defense couldn't stop the run even though everyone knew it was coming, and most of Florida's 361 yards on offense came late.
The offense was plagued by two turnovers, three sacks and several dropped passes. Mississippi State used a steady variety of blitzes to disrupt Brantley, who was 24 of 39 passing for 210 yards, and keep the running game in check.
"You can point fingers all over the place," Meyer said, adding that significant changes could be on tap during the team's off week.
Florida also lost another potential playmaker to injury. With running back Jeff Demps already slowed by a foot injury, receiver Andre Debose left the field on crutches in the second quarter with a badly sprained right ankle.
After an 18-play drive in the second quarter that ended with a missed field goal, the Gators finally got on the board with an 80-yard drive to start the third. Burton and Hines sparked the offense, with Burton lining up at quarterback and Hines taking over at H-back.
"We fought," Burton said. "That's all you can really ask for. We've got to learn to execute."
With Brantley back at quarterback, Florida looked like it would get a go-ahead score. But Demps fumbled a swing pass near the Mississippi State 20-yard line.
"Florida has a great football team," MSU defensive back Johnthan Banks said. "You can't take anything away from them."
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