By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
MSU won the turnover battle, 3-2, intercepting Bo Wallace twice and recovering a fumble. On special teams, Jameon Lewis returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to answer the Rebels’ first score. It was the longest play in the 109-year history of the series.
MSU didn’t score off any of those turnovers, and it struggled to find offensive consistency. Quarterback Tyler Russell had accuracy issues and was intercepted twice, and the run game managed only 30 yards.
State was 1 of 13 on third downs, while Ole Miss was 6 of 14. The Bulldogs were gashed on the ground (233 yards) and through the air (294), and gave up six pass plays of 20-plus yards.
Keys to victory
Evaluating the keys to victory in Saturday’s GameDay section:
1. Hit the big plays: MSU had a 42-yard touchdown pass from Russell to Chad Bumphis in the first quarter, and the two later hooked up for a 68-yard gain. Otherwise, the long plays were in short supply against an Ole Miss defense that has been prone to giving up such plays this season.
Those two passes to Bumphis were the only plays longer than 17 yards for MSU.
2. Rattle Wallace: The Ole Miss QB had two early interceptions and lost a fumble, but he settled in after halftime. Wallace took to the ground quite a bit to start the third quarter, and he was 3 of 4 passing for 53 yards after halftime. All three of those completions went for touchdowns.
He was sacked once.
3. Wear them down: The Rebels’ energy level never waned, and they held up physically into the fourth quarter better than in the past. A 34-17 lead after three periods probably helped that.
Linebacker Cam Lawrence had a career-high two interceptions, including one at the goal line to snuff out a scoring opportunity. The senior also recorded a team-leading 13 tackles and 3.0 tackles-for-loss.
After a 7-0 start, MSU finished the season 1-4, with all of those losses coming to SEC Western Division opponents. The Bulldogs gave up at least 37 points in each of the losses and struggled to run the ball, totaling just 222 yards against Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss.
But a bowl game awaits, so there’s a chance to end things on a more positive note.