STARKVILLE – It was Tyson Lee’s show again, and it did not go particularly well.
For the first time this season. and just the sixth time in the senior quarterback’s Mississippi State career. Lee took every snap in Saturday’s 31-24 loss to Houston. Chris Relf, his platoon partner, was suspended for the game due to an unspecified team rules violation.
Coach Dan Mullen declined to comment on Relf’s situation.
So it was left up to Lee, the former ICC standout. He finished 15 of 23 passing for 160 yards and two interceptions, and also lost two fumbles.
The fumbles were especially perplexing. Both came on option read handoffs on which he waited too long to try pulling the ball out of his running back’s gut.
“It’s really not that hard – either he keeps the ball or he hands it to somebody else,” Mullen said. “It’s a pretty simple deal.”
Lee took full responsibility for the mistakes. He now has six interceptions against three touchdown passes. He rushed for a career-high 68 yards Saturday, but that was of no comfort.
“Continually staying in the game, not having to come out, I thought we had a rhythm going for most of the game,” Lee said. “I thought a lot of guys made some big plays, but we just weren’t able to finish drives like we needed to today.”
Dixon’s big run
– Senior tailback Anthony Dixon had a SportsCenter moment in the second quarter. On a 50-yard touchdown, he stiff-armed one defender and carried him and two others into the end zone.
“After that 1-yard thing we went through with LSU, I’m definitely not trying to go down,” he said. “I’m fighting for every inch. Until they tackle me, I’m going to keep pumping and keep fighting.”
Dixon finished with a season-high 134 yards, giving him 3,064 for his career, just 48 shy of Jerious Norwood’s school record. It was his 13th career 100-yard game, tying Norwood’s career mark.
Banks gets the start
– East Webster product Johnthan Banks, a true freshman, got his first career start Saturday at free safety. He replaced junior Zach Smith, who was out with an undisclosed illness.
Banks got passing marks from Mullen and finished with six tackles. He’d been working at cornerback until last week.
“I played (Class) 1A football. I really never played nobody as good as me,” Banks said. “I go in practice up against B-Mac (Brandon McRae) and Chad Bumphis and all them guys, and I think they got me ready to play.”
– After Lee’s second interception, Houston drove 78 yards in 10 plays, taking 3:11 off the clock. Case Keenum’s 3-yard pass to Tyron Carrier gave Houston a 24-17 lead with 6:23 to play.
– Four – Non-offensive touchdowns scored by MSU this year. It had none last year. Charles Mitchell’s 71-yard interception return in the first quarter opened Saturday’s scoring.
– Mississippi State hits the road, visiting Middle Tennessee State (3-2), which lost to Troy, 31-7, on Tuesday. MSU beat the Blue Raiders in Starkville last year, 31-22.
– “We need that final step to push ourselves over the top, to become a great team.” – MSU coach Dan Mullen
– Linebacker Jamar Chaney had his first career interception, killing a Houston drive at the 2-yard line in the third quarter. … Houston, of Conference USA, is 3-0 against BCS teams this year, including wins over Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. … MSU kicker Sean Brauchle and defensive lineman Charles Burns missed the game with injuries. … MSU’s 330 rushing yards were its most since getting 340 against Kentucky in 2004.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal