By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Johnthan Banks’ Mississippi State career ended on the bench.
The senior cornerback missed most of the second half in Tuesday’s 34-20 Gator Bowl loss to Northwestern after suffering a laceration on his leg. That happened near the end of the first half on a punt return, and Banks sat out most of the second half.
“He wanted to go back in, but I told our trainers unless he’s 100 percent, try not to put him back in the game,” head coach Dan Mullen said.
Banks wasn’t on the field during a crucial Northwestern drive in the third quarter, when Trevor Siemian completed 3 of 5 passes for 73 yards on a 76-yard touchdown drive.
Siemian completed a 12-yard pass on third-and-10, then on the next two plays recorded completions of 27 and 34 yards to get the Wildcats down to MSU’s 3-yard line.
Tyris Jones ran it in from 3 yards for a 20-13 Northwestern lead.
“I’m not one to make excuses,” co-defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said of Banks’ absence. “He’s a great player. Looking out there as a play caller and not having 13 out there kind of changes your mindset a little bit.”
State still wound up with three interceptions. Safety Nickoe Whitley had two, and defensive end Denico Autry had one.
Banks, from Maben, finishes his decorated career with 16 interceptions, tied with Walt Harris for most in school history.
What Brown can do
Freshman defensive end Ryan Brown saw a lot of playing time, and while he didn’t fill up the stat sheet, he was very active. Brown recorded a pass break-up in the late in the first quarter when he batted down a Trevor Siemian pass at the line of scrimmage.
“People really don’t notice this about Ryan, but he’s a lot like (linebacker) Cam Lawrence,” Collins said. “He’s the first one in the meetings, he’s the first one at the practice field, he’s the last one to leave. …
“He’s going to have a special future because it’s so important to him to be great.”
After a Tyler Russell interception, Northwestern covered just 5 yards in three plays, with Venric Mark’s 3-yard TD run giving his team a 34-20 lead with 8:10 left in the game.
1 – MSU was just 1 of 11 on third-down conversions, while Northwestern was 10 of 19.
“I still think we’re going in with good momentum, because we’ve got something to learn from and get better off of.” – MSU safety Nickoe Whitley, on going into the offseason having lost five of the last six games.
Arceto Clark’s 18-yard TD catch in the second quarter made the former Shannon product the first MSU player to score a TD in three different bowl games. … Lawrence led MSU with nine tackles and finished the season with a team-leading 120. … QB Kain Colter led Northwestern with 71 rushing yards. … State scored 383 points this season, breaking the school record of 377 set just two years ago.