MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – After Anthony Dixon dashed into the school’s record books, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen gave him a congratulatory hug and then a friendly reminder:
Don’t lose the ball.
Dixon obliged, and his teammates followed suit in a 27-6 win over Middle Tennessee on Saturday in front of 23,882 at Floyd Stadium. On a chilly, windy day, it was a victory that was needed both for MSU’s ledger and its collective psyche.
Dixon, a senior tailback, rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns, and he became the school’s all-time leader in a pair of categories: rushing yards and 100-yard games, marks previously held by Jerious Norwood (2002-05), who’s currently with the Atlanta Falcons.
The Bulldogs (3-4) weren’t dynamite on offense, but they committed no turnovers after having 13 giveaways during a three-game losing streak.
On the flip side, MSU got four turnovers, with Corey Broomfield and Johnthan Banks recording two interceptions apiece.
“We really needed this after coming up short these last three games,” Dixon said. “And with us trying to get to a bowl game – that’s definitely where we want to be – we’re in fight mode. We’re clawing and scratching for wins.”
Dixon broke Norwood’s career yards record in fine fashion in the second quarter. Needing just seven yards to eclipse it, Dixon ripped off a 57-yard touchdown run to give MSU a 17-3 lead with 5 minutes, 37 seconds left in the half.
Dixon wound up with 100 yards at halftime, and that gave him his 14th career 100-yard game, breaking another Norwood mark.
MSU held a 17-6 halftime lead, and Middle Tennessee (3-3) had just six rushing yards at that point. The Blue Raiders finished with 42 rushing yards and 248 total yards.
A couple of red zone stops highlighted the first half for State, including a goal line stand in the second quarter that forced MTSU to settle for a field goal.
“We knew when they got down there they were pretty much try to run it in with their quarterback, No. 9. We just really keyed on him the whole time,” middle linebacker Jamar Chaney said.
The quarterback was Dwight Dasher, who didn’t see the field until the second quarter. He was suspended for the first period as punishment for missing a conditioning workout earlier in the week.
Dasher was 11 for 22 for 129 yards and three interceptions, and he rushed for 47 yards. He was without his top receiver, Patrick Honeycutt, who was one of three MTSU players suspended after they were arrested last weekend.
Middle Tennessee’s best chance to get back in the game was thwarted by Broomfield, a redshirt freshman making his first career start.
Broomfield sweeps clean
MSU was leading 20-6 when Middle Tennessee had a 36-yard touchdown pass from Dasher to Chris McClover negated by an offensive pass interference called on McClover, who was being covered by Broomfield.
On the next play, Broomfield intercepted Dasher at the MSU 27-yard line with 14:30 left in the game.
“I’d love to say that we do a really amazing job coming up with a lot of great game plans – and our defensive coaches did a good job – but you know what, if you play great defense and take care of the football, you’ll have a chance to win a lot of football games,” Mullen said. “We can take a lot from that.”
Mississippi State finished with 333 total yards, 178 of that on the ground. Quarterback Tyson Lee, who’d committed nine turnovers over the previous three games, was 14 of 20 for 155 yards and no interceptions. He fumbled twice but lost neither one.
He opened the scoring with a 39-yard TD run in the first quarter.
“Dropping back for the pass and then I run it, I think it keeps the defense honest,” Lee said. “When they did stay in the box, we were able to throw it and make some big plays in that, too.”
Derek DePasquale, filling in again for an injured Sean Brauchle, made field goals of 24 and 36 yards for MSU.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal