By Logan Lowery
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Coming into Saturday, Mississippi State led the Southeastern Conference and were seventh nationally with only six turnovers this season.
The Bulldogs nearly matched that total against South Carolina, giving the ball up five times which led to 20 points for the Gamecocks in a 34-16 victory.
“It’s obviously a disappointing day when we get 11 more first downs than them, a better completion percentage, a lot more yards and a lot more plays,” said MSU coach Dan Mullen. “But if you go minus-five in the turnover ratio on the road in the SEC, I’d put your chance of winning at about one-percent.”
The five turnovers were the most MSU has committed since 2010 against LSU. The Bulldogs had surrendered only three points off turnovers all year.
Four of the turnovers came from the hands of Dak Prescott. The sophomore quarterback played every snap behind center tossing up three interceptions and fumbling once.
“We didn’t do a good job of being focused and making the right plays and that begins with me,” Prescott said.
Prescott finished the game 28 of 43 passing for 235 yards. He also led the team with 15 carries for 78 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Robert Johnson was the Bulldogs leading receiver with seven catches for 53 yards as State (4-4, 1-3) finished with 385 yards, 78 more than the Gamecocks who improved to 7-2 on the year and 5-2 in conference play.
“They were a little better than us in that area but we still won the game and sometimes you need to win that way,” said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.
Things started well enough for the Bulldogs marching 60-yards in nine plays on the opening drive finished off by a 1-yard run by Prescott.
But Prescott interceptions on two of the next three drives allowed South Carolina to take a 14-7 lead on two TD strikes from Connor Shaw to Shaq Roland, for 14 and 43 yards.
The two teams traded field goals in the second quarter as the Gamecocks took a 17-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Mississippi State received the ball at midfield to start the second half via a bumbled kickoff of only 17 yards. But on the second play from scrimmage, Prescott had the ball jarred loose on a hit from Chaz Sutton and was scooped up by Sharrod Golightly and returned to the MSU 23-yard line.
‘A huge deal’
“That was a huge deal because we get the ball at midfield with an opportunity to tie it up,” Mullen said. “They made a mistake and we don’t capitalize on it. We just make another mistake.”
The Gamecocks needed only four plays to cash in another turnover when Shaw connected with Damiere Byrd on a 6-yard score and the rout was on. Shaw threw another touchdown to Jerrell Adams and got a field goal to close out the quarter.
Prescott scored his 17 touchdown of the year with an 11-yard run with 5:38 to play.
Shaw finished 10 of 20 for 147 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Mike Davis churned out 128 yards on 15 attempts on the ground.