By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – A big moment for Johnthan Banks turned into a scary moment Saturday night.
In the third quarter, Banks recorded his 16th career interception, tying the school record held by Walt Harris. The senior returned it to the MTSU 25-yard line and was hurt when Chris Sharpe fell into him after the play and twisted his left knee.
Banks stayed down for a couple of minutes before limping off. Trainers checked him out, and “they said everything felt completely stable,” head coach Dan Mullen said.
Banks said he’ll just put some ice on the knee and should be good to go.
“It scared me a little bit, but I’ll be all right,” he said.
Banks now has five regular season games and a bowl game in which to break Harris’ mark.
His interception came in the midst of a 21-point third quarter for MSU and was one of three turnovers the Bulldogs forced.
“After the game you look back and say, OK, that was the moment that kind of sealed it for our guys,” Mullen said.
Fans and media have been pointing to the Alabama game for a while. Now MSU’s players and coaches can, too.
“Toward the end of last week we were kind of thinking about it a lot,” tailback LaDarius Perkins said. “We know we can’t overlook an opponent … but in the back of our minds we were thinking about it.
“Now we can fully think about it from now until game time.”
RoJo gets first TD
Robert Johnson has been a great practice player who’s not always gotten it done on game day. He got it done Saturday, making two catches for 36 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
It was the first career TD for the sophomore.
“Good to see it translate onto game day for Robert,” Mullen said. “You see him in practice sometimes, and there’s some ‘wow’ at practice. And then a lot of the times that ‘wow’ in practice turns to kind of average in the game. …
“I think tonight you saw him get a little bit more relaxed out there on the field.”
MSU led 10-3 when its defense got a big hold to open the second half. The offense then took it 75 yards in just five plays, with LaDarius Perkins scoring on a 64-yard run.
Three – MSU forced three turnovers, all in the second half.
“Coach Mullen, I’m not going to say what he did at halftime, but he got us fired up. We came back out and we dominated.” – Cornerback Johnthan Banks
MSU visits No. 1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC). Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
MSU has scored 25 or more points in seven consecutive games for the first time in school history. … Right guard Tobias Smith did not play but was available. Justin Malone drew his fourth career start. … Banks and Nickoe Whitley had eight tackles apiece.