By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
TROY, Ala. – Johnthan Banks has received a lot of well-deserved publicity, but perhaps it’s time Darius Slay gets some more of the spotlight.
The senior cornerback made two interceptions and accounted for three of four turnovers in Mississippi State’s 30-24 win over Troy on Saturday. The two picks vaulted him past Banks for the team lead with four on the season; Banks has three.
Slay has had at least one pick in each of the first three games. He has five for his career. He also had six tackles, a fumble recovery and a pass break-up Saturday. Troy challenged Slay several times downfield but never burned him.
“I had to earn my respect out there, so that’s what I was trying to do,” said Slay, who played at ICC before transferring to MSU in 2011.
Banks is two interceptions away from tying the school’s career record of 16, and he’s a preseason All-American. That means teams are trying to stay away from him.
Slay isn’t a much better option for quarterbacks to attack.
“Those turnovers were really what turned the tide of the game for us and gave us the lead,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said. “People are staying away from Banks a little bit, but it’s great having a guy on the other side that’s tough to beat, too.”
Too many pats
After MSU beat Auburn last weekend, Mullen warned his players to not let all the “pats on the back” distract them. He thought it had an effect, citing dropped passes, poor tackling and penalties.
“Those are the mental focus things that you can’t lose sight of,” he said. “A couple of times tonight, I think we lost sight of those things. I think this will give us a renewed sense of urgency coming back to practice this week and getting ourselves focused.”
Wide receiver Chad Bumphis, who had a career night with 180 yards and three touchdowns, also had a drop, as did several receivers. He thought the Bulldogs let all the praise after last week’s win hurt them.
“You kind of lose focus. I’m sure you talked to coach Mullen, we’ll get it back this week at practice,” Bumphis said.
Smith held out
Redshirt freshman Justin Malone made his first career start at right guard and played the entire game, as coaches wanted to protect a banged-up Tobias Smith.
A senior with a lengthy injury history, Smith saw extensive action against Auburn after playing one series against Jackson State. It took its toll.
“Trainers came in Thursday, said, you know, we’re not sure,” Mullen said. “With his history, we shut him down. We’ll see how it goes this week. I imagine Tobias will probably be questionable this week again.”
Leading 23-21 in the fourth quarter, MSU marched 74 yards on 12 plays, converting two fourth downs. Tyler Russell hit Chad Bumphis for a 25-yard TD on a fourth-and-5.
Four – MSU forced four turnovers and scored 20 points off them. State has now forced 12 turnovers on the season, tied with Alabama and Kansas for most in the country.
“They out-executed us except for a couple of plays in the fourth quarter, and we won in the fourth quarter. At the end of the day, we won, and that’s the biggest stat.” – MSU defensive coordinator Chris Wilson
MSU is the first BCS conference team to win at Troy. The Trojans beat the two previous visitors, Missouri in 2004 and Oklahoma State in 2007. … For the first time in school history, MSU had a receiver and a running back with more than 175 yards each. Bumphis had 180 yards receiving, while LaDarius Perkins had 179 rushing. … Cam Lawrence had a team-high 13 tackles.