By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
TROY, Ala. – There were many forgettable moments, but Mississippi State will remember this game for the way it survived.
Despite giving up 572 yards and dropping at least a half-dozen passes, the Bulldogs held on to defeat Troy 30-24 in front of a record crowed (29,013) at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
MSU, 3-0 for the first time since 1999, offset those miscues by forcing four turnovers in the first half and turning those into quick points.
Troy (1-2) kept gobbling up yards and cut a 23-7 deficit to 23-21 in the fourth quarter, but MSU got a touchdown and late defensive stop to salt it away.
“We’re very fortunate to play as poorly as we did and come out with a win,” head coach Dan Mullen said.
MSU was clinging to a 23-21 lead when it covered 74 yards in 12 plays, converting two fourth downs along the way. The second conversion was a 25-yard TD pass from Tyler Russell to Chad Bumphis, who made the grab in the back of the end zone with 7 minutes to go.
He appeared to juggle the ball, but an official review confirmed that he had possession with one foot down.
“I knew I’d caught it, I just wasn’t sure about my feet,” Bumphis said. “I was just hoping my feet were in.”
Troy made a field goal with 4:07 left, but it never got the ball back.
Bumphis had a career game, catching six passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns. Tailback LaDarius Perkins also had a career high in yards with 179 on 23 carries. He scored on a 30-yard run in the first quarter, and he helped kill the clock at the end with a 30-yard jaunt.
Perkins believes this performance showed how well he could handle a full load.
“Coming into this season, I worked hard over the summer to get bigger, faster, stronger, and it’s pretty much showing on the field right now,” Perkins said.
MSU finished with 457 yards and committed no turnovers. It’s turnover margin on the year is now plus-11.
Russell was 11 of 26 for 244 yards and three TDs.
MSU scored 20 points off Troy’s four turnovers in the first half. The Trojans led 7-3 when State recovered a muffed punt, leading to Perkins’ touchdown run.
Turnovers to points
The Bulldogs turned two of Troy’s three second-quarter turnovers into points, with Bumphis catching TD passes of 72 and 58 yards. The second one gave MSU a 23-7 lead with 4:50 left in the half.
MSU needed three total plays on those two scoring drives.
“They were giving us the opportunity to do that, and we had to connect on them,” MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning said of the quick strikes. “That’s how they played the game.”
Troy quarterback Corey Robinson completed 32 of 45 passes for 343 yards but no TDs. He got plenty of help from the run game, which totaled 223 yards. Shawn Southward gained 137 yards and scored twice on 20 carries.
“This is a humbling day,” MSU defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. “That’s the great thing about this game, and it’s really the great thing about our team. Who’s to say two or three years ago we wouldn’t have found a way to lose this game.
“These guys found a way to win in a great environment where people have come in before and seen the opposite.”
Southward’s 3-yard run in the third quarter made it a 23-14 game, and then Justin Albert scampered in from 31 yards to cut the MSU lead to two with 12:40 left in the fourth.
But those four first-half turnovers proved too much to overcome.
“Our kids were really crushed,” 22nd-year head coach Larry Blakeney said. “But the thing we’ve got to do is learn how to beat Troy before we can beat anybody else.”
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