By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s linebackers have picked up some extra film study partners lately.
Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox, the Bulldogs’ junior defensive tackles, have been crashing the linebackers’ film sessions, getting in as much extra time as they can. It’s paying off.
On Saturday, the duo caused No. 15 South Carolina plenty of trouble in a 14-12 loss, playing a big role in shutting down tailback Marcus Lattimore, who had a season-low 39 yards on 17 carries.
Boyd had seven tackles and a half-sack, while Cox made six tackles, 2.0 sacks and a career-high 4.0 tackles-for-loss. They led one of the Bulldogs’ better tackling efforts this season.
MSU had three sacks and nine tackles-for-loss, tying a season high. South Carolina was held to 133 total yards after halftime.
“Me and Josh put a whole lot of time in the film room this week,” Cox said. “Knowing when the hand’s down, when he’s light on his hands, is he fixing to pull, or is it pass set, or just knowing what you’ve got before it happens.”
MSU’s been looking for more from its receivers lately, and it got good production from several places Saturday.
Arceto Clark had a team-high four catches for 54 yards, giving him 13 receptions over his last three games, the best such stretch of his career. Chris Smith had 34 yards on three catches, including a 19-yard TD and a grab on which he was hit and flipped in mid-air.
Redshirt freshman tight end Malcolm Johnson had two catches for 51 yards, one of them a 31-yarder on a third-and-10 in the fourth quarter. That led to a go-ahead field goal.
Chad Bumphis, who’s been mostly quiet this year, had two catches for 26 yards.
“We had a lot of guys making plays,” quarterback Tyler Russell said. “My job is to get the ball to my playmakers, and I feel like at times I did that, and sometimes I didn’t. And that’s my fault, and I’ve got to take responsibility.”
On a third-and-goal from MSU’s 4-yard line, South Carolina QB Connor Shaw found Alshon Jeffery for the go-ahead touchdown pass with 3:50 left in the game. Jeffery had been covered by Johnthan Banks most of the game, but Corey Broomfield had him on that play and was out of position.
On the go-ahead drive, South Carolina covered 79 yards in a variety of ways. Shaw was 4 of 4 for 39 yards passing and rushed for 10 yards on two carries. Bruce Ellington accounted for 29 yards running, receiving and throwing on the drive. Backup tailback Brandon Wilds had four carries for 9 yards and twice moved the chains.
Three – South Carolina was 3 of 5 on fourth downs, although only one of those came on a drive that ended in a score – a game-tying 80-yard drive in the second quarter. Shaw ran for two of the conversions and had a 19-yard completion on the other.
“It’s always good to make progress. We’re getting there, we just need to take that next step. It’s hard, but we’re getting there.” – MSU tailback Vick Ballard
After missing last week’s game with knee tendinitis, defensive end Sean Ferguson was back in the starting lineup for MSU. He had five tackles. … On State’s lone TD drive, it ran the ball the first nine plays, then Russell hit Smith for the 19-yard score. … South Carolina entered the game tied for the SEC lead in sacks (13), but had just one Saturday. … Ballard had 67 yards on 20 carries, while LaDarius Perkins had 48 on nine totes for State.