October 11, 2008

Bulldogs complete upset of No. 13 Vandy

STARKVILLE - It seems like every season Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom finds a way to pull at least one upset.

But no upset has been bigger in his five seasons than the one his Bulldogs accomplished Saturday with a 17-14 win over No. 13 Vanderbilt and spoiling their undefeated mark.

When we started this football season I knew we were in trouble because I knew we did not have leadership," Croom said. "I did not know how much character we had, and I was not sure if we were a team because I hadn't seen it. Last year was last year and until I see it I do not know what we've got. In a lot of ways the way we have started has served us well. We have taken a lot of criticism for some things of our own doing and others they just happened. But, the thing I am most proud of them for is they did not turn on each other or the coaches. They withstood the criticism and continued to work each and every day.

"We had our best six practices of the entire year, dating back to last spring, over these past two weeks. Their attitude was magnificent, and they were very physical in practice, and they came out and showed that today. We are not the same team we were at the beginning of the season, and they are not the same people they were at the beginning of the season. As happy I am about the win, I am more proud that they have been through the fire and came out better men."

It was MSU's largest underdog victory since knocking off third ranked Florida in 2000. The Bulldogs improved to 2-4 on the year and 1-2 within the Southeastern Conference while Vanderbilt dropped to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in league play.

"All the things we were doing when we won five games, we didn't do a very good job with today," said Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson. "That's just the difference between winning and losing, especially when we take on teams with a lot of talent like Mississippi State. We had too many penalties, dropped balls, and too many missed tackles. We couldn't seem to make the big play and that's what seems to happen to you when you don't win."

The Bulldogs racked up 247 yards of total offense on the afternoon and 16 first downs. State chewed up 166 yards rushing and 81 passing and did not turn the ball over en route to the victory in front of 43,619 at Davis Wade Stadium.

"Our offense did a good job and it shows we are not the same football team as the beginning of the year because we were turning the ball over too much at the start of the season," Croom said. "We had to get back to being a 'hit 'em in the mouth kind of football team' and that's the way we're going to be the rest of the year."

Anthony Dixon paced the rushing attack with 107 yards on 27 carries.

Tyson Lee earned his first win as a starter going the distance under center. Lee was 12-of-22 for 81 yards and a touchdown and also scrambled nine times for 29 yards.

Brandon McRae led the Bulldog receiving corps with five catches for 39 yards.

The Mississippi State offense looked crisp to open the game marching 64 yards in 12 plays but a key holding penalty on Jamayel Smith on what would have been a 10-yard reverse to McRae cost the team momentum and had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Adam Carlson.

After pinning State at their own 2-yard line and holding them to three and out, the Commodores took advantage of a Blake McAdams yard shank and took over at midfield.

Vanderbilt drove down to the goal line but the Bulldogs appeared to stop their progress on third down. But Jasper O'Quinn was called for a facemask penalty in the end zone giving Vanderbilt a fresh set of downs inside the 1-yard line. It took three plays but Chris Nickson went over the top for the score with 0:19 before the half.Bryant Hahnfeldt kicked the point after to take the 7-3 lead into the half.

The Bulldogs wasted little time regaining the lead in the second half scoring on their first possession. MSU drove 79 yards in a dozen plays and converted four first downs. Lee picked up one of those first downs scrambling and was responsible with the score finding Brandon Henderon in the end zone from 5-yards out.

The Bulldogs had another solid drive going after a 23-yard punt return by Derek Pegues to the VU 44-yard line. Mississippi State went as deep as the 33-yard line but Co-Eric Riley was called for a dead ball, personal foul and backed the Bulldogs up and forced a punt.

But De'Mon Glanton made amends for the foolish penalty by picking off Nickson on Vanderbilt's first play from scrimmage and returning it down to the 7-yard line. The offense went to work from there and punched it in on a 4-yard run by Christian Ducre three plays later.

Carlson connected on the PAT giving the Bulldogs a 17-7 lead with 13:27 to go in the final quarter.

But Vanderbilt answered right back making a quarterback change to Mackenzi Adams for the rest of the way. Adams led the Commodores 57-yard down the field in 10 plays picking up four first downs along the way. Jeff Jennings carried in from 2-yards out with 8:16 remaining.

Hahnfeldt knocked the extra point him to pull Vanderbilt within a field goal.

With time winding down, the Vanderbilt faithful were hoping Adams could rally the team back as he has all season but Karlin Brown dashed those hopes when he picked off a pass with 3:18 to go to seal the win for the Bulldogs.

Vanderbilt was limited to only 107 total yards on offense picking up 62 via the air and 45 on the ground. The Commodores also only managed seven first downs.

"(Mississippi State) did a good job with that week off and showed us something a little bit different," Johnson said. "They also have good players doing it too. We probably weren't as sharp as we had been but you have to give them a lot of credit for making some big plays and they did a real good job in coverage. It looked like when we had some momentum, we would get a penalty to stop us."

Vanderbilt quarterbacks combined to go 8-of-20 passing for 62 yards and two interceptions and were sacked three times. Nickson hit on 3-of-10 for 15 yards and an interception while Adams was 5-of-9 for 47 yards and a pick.

Sean Walker was the leading Commodore receiver with two catches for 27 yards.

Jennings rushed four times for 15 yards and a score while Walker had two totes for 15 yards.

"They were pretty stout up front and we really couldn't seem to get anybody to bust through there to make any kind of yardage on a run," Johnson said. "Chris got a couple on some quarterback keepers. We just couldn't seem to handle them up front."

Dominic Douglas led the Mississippi State defensive unit with eight tackles (three solo, five assist).

"During the week, we've been talking about tempo, intensity and playing like we played last year," Douglas said. "As you saw we went out there and played our type of defense, congratulating the guy that made the play. That's basically what you saw, the defense playing with a lot of intensity"

Cortez McCraney and Keith Fitzhugh each recorded sacks while Brandon Cooper and Charles Burns combined for a sack.

Reshard Langford led the Commodores defensively with 10 tackles followed by Patrick Benoist with nine stops and Chris Marve with eight.

Vanderbilt with attempt to get their elusive sixth win at Georgia on Saturday while the Bulldogs travel to Knoxville to face Tennessee.

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