NEW ORLEANS, La. – Behind a strong second-half performance, Mississippi State posted a 38-17 road win over homestanding Tulane Saturday night in the Louisiana Superdome. After the Bulldogs (1-1) and Green Wave (0-1) battled to a 17-17 tie at the half, State shut out TU in the second half while scoring 21 unanswered points to secure the triumph.
Highlighting the night for MSU was sophomore running back Anthony Dixon, who rushed 27 times for 131 yards (both career highs) and two touchdowns, both of which came in the second half. After an early interception, starting quarterback Michael Henig settled down and completed 20-of-31 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a score in the first half.
The Bulldogs jumped on top of the Green Wave early, with Gabe O'Neal intercepting Scott Elliot's second pass of the game and returning it 47 yards for the first points of the season for Mississippi State. After the Bulldog score, Tulane answered on their next drive on a Matt Forte touchdown run from 39 yards out. The Bulldog defense did an excellent job of holding the highly-touted running back in check otherwise, as he ended the night with just 47 yards on the ground.
State went up 14-7 later in the first period, when Henig ran in an 18-yard score, but Tulane returned the favor on its ensuing possession to knot the score at 14-14.
In the second quarter, both defenses stepped up when they needed to, allowing only a field goal each. Henig engineered an 82-yard State drive but was unable to get a touchdown from the red zone. Adam Carlson then connected on 23-yard field goal with 6:25 before the half to put State up 17-14. On the next drive, Tulane drove 65 yards before being stopped inside the 10-yard line. Their resulting field goal left the score tied at 17 at the intermission.
The Bulldog offense came out firing in the second half, scoring on its first possession. MSU drove the ball 67 yards, scoring when Henig completed an 8-yard pass to Jeremy Jones. The defense continued its strong play by holding Tulane's offense to negative yardage for the third quarter and by forcing a fumble that led to a one-play drive for MSU, a 27-yard touchdown run by Dixon.
Dixon continued to carry the load in the fourth quarter. He rushed the ball on all but one play on State's final scoring drive of the night, completing the charge with a 7-yard scoring run. The defense held Tulane to only one yard of offense in the second half.
Defensively, the Bulldogs were paced by Jamar Chaney's six tackles. In addition to his first career interception, O'Neal also recovered a Green Wave fumble for the Bulldogs. Keith Fitzhugh notched five tackles and a sack for State on the evening.
The Bulldogs stay on the road next Saturday, as they face Southeastern Conference Western Division foe Auburn. MSU and AU will meet at 11:30 a.m. CT at Jordan-Hare Stadium on the Auburn campus, a matchup that will be televised by Lincoln Financial Sports. Tulane stays at home to host the Houston Cougars on the same day.
Read more about this story in Sunday's Daily Journal.