MSU NOTEBOOK: Whitley makes big play

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, celebrates Mississippi State's 24-17 overtime victory over Arkansas with defensive back Nickoe Whitley, who forced a big turnover in the fourth quarter. (AP Photo/David Quinn)

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen celebrates Mississippi State’s 24-17 overtime victory over Arkansas with defensive back Nickoe Whitley, who forced a big turnover in the fourth quarter. (AP Photo/David Quinn)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Mississippi State senior safety Nickoe Whitley entered Saturday’s game tied for the most career interceptions among major-college players with 14.

But it was a fourth-quarter strip and fumble recovery that could become Whitley’s most famous forced turnover.

With the game tied at 17 with 7:16 to play, Arkansas drove 72 yards in three plays down to the 15-yard line. Razorback freshman running back Alex Collins busted across the line of scrimmage with a 3-yard run but was met by Whitley, who stripped the ball out and recovered it to keep Arkansas off the board.

“Seniors know in that moment that they’re the guy,” said MSU coach Dan Mullen. “He’s a fifth year senior who’s been starting has put his time and work in. Nickoe’s a guy who’s made tons and tons of plays since he’s been here but I’ll never forget that one.”

Whitley also led the team with 10 tackles.

Prescott’s out

Sophomore Dak Prescott did not dress for a second consecutive game after suffering nerve damage to his left shoulder late against Texas A&M.

Mullen stated following Saturday’s game that Prescott’s return to the field this season would only be likely if the Bulldogs advanced to a bowl game.

Key drive

MSU had an opportunity to score after forcing a fumble on a kickoff with 1:48 remaining before halftime. The Bulldogs took over at the UA 34-yard line and drove down to the 5-yard line in three plays. But Derrick Milton fumbled on the fourth play at the 1-yard line that was recovered by Rohan Gaines of Arkansas.

Key number – 33

Mississippi State had lost 33 straight games when trailing after three quarters before Saturday’s win. The Razorbacks led 17-10 entering the fourth quarter.

Quotable

“I was pretty confident that we were going to win. We just had to keep on playing and do what we do. We never had any doubt during that game that we weren’t going to win.” – MSU junior defensive tackle P.J. Jones of Tupelo

Next game

State plays for bowl eligibility in its annual Egg Bowl rivalry against Ole Miss. This year’s matchup is a 6:30 p.m. kickoff on Thanksgiving in Starkville.

Bulldog bites

RB LaDarius Perkins is now 2nd in school history with 4,181 all-purpose yards. … LB Deontae Skinner returned to action after missing two games due to injury. … MSU won its first game in the state of Arkansas (1-9-1). …The win snapped a six-game road losing streak. … CB Tolando Cleveland forced a fumble that was recovered by LB Beniquez Brown on a kickoff. … Taveze Calhoun’s overtime interception was his third pickoff in two weeks. … MSU is now 4-4 in overtime games and 1-3 against Arkansas in OT.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com