Hail State. After a game like that, the only words that need to be written are those.
The 6-0 Mississippi State Bulldogs pulled off a 41-31 win over Tennessee in what some may call one of the best games played at Davis Wade Stadium.
Johnthan Banks saved the day again for MSU. But this time, the senior chose a different method instead of an interception.
Tennessee had just gotten the ball back down by three in the fourth quarter when Banks forced a fumble and recovered it, giving State the ball at the UT 30 yard line.
The Dogs wasted no time in putting the ball in the end zone and scored three plays later on a one-yard run by LaDarius Perkins.
Banks said head coach Dan Mullen put a picture on instagram earlier this week that had Banks on it which said, “Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games,” and he responded with a big-time play.
“Our locker room was ridiculous after the game. We knew they had an explosive offense, but they couldn’t get in a rhythm like they wanted to, and we won the football game,” Banks said. “I hope the other media people don’t say we still ain’t played nobody. Hopefully we will get the respect we deserve.”
After a dominating first half by the Bulldogs, the second half was a different story. Junior quarterback Tyler Russell looked like a Heisman candidate in the first 30 minutes of play, but he ran into trouble in the second half.
Russell was not the only Bulldog quarterback to make some noise against the Vols. Redshirt freshman Dak Prescott came in for the Dogs early in the second quarter and ran for six yards before throwing his first career touchdown pass to a wide-open Marcus Green to give State a 17-7 lead.
But Cordarrelle Patterson and the Vols did not go away easily. Patterson returned a kickoff 98 yards in the second quarter to keep UT within three.
The Vols dominated the third quarter, making the score 27-24 MSU headed into the fourth.
After Perkins’ touchdown run late in the fourth, UT responded only two and a half minutes later with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Bray.
State got the ball with five minutes to go, leading by three, and drove the ball down the field under the leadership of Russell. State sealed the game with a fourth and goal touchdown pass from Russell to Malcolm Johnson, who was playing in his first game of the year.
Russell, who finished the game 23-37 for 291 yards and two touchdowns, said he trusted Johnson to make something happen on the last throw.
“Coach said, ‘If it’s open, throw it. If it’s not, don’t force it.’ I gave him a chance, and either he was going to catch it or no one was going to catch it,” Russell said. “I trust all of my guys to make plays.”
With the win, State remained one of only 12 undefeated teams in the FBS and improved its record to 8-3 against SEC East opponents under Mullen. Also, the Bulldogs’ eight-game winning streak is tied for the third longest in MSU history.
Mullen said his leaders stepped up and made big plays just like they have done all season.
“I’m proud of how our guys came out and played. We played a great first half on both sides of the ball but stumbled around in the second half,” Mullen said. “But when we needed it, we made big plays.”