September 6, 2008

Bulldogs explosive in win over SELA

STARKVILLE, Miss., - The Mississippi State Bulldogs found the win column for the first time this season with an impressive 34-10 win over Southeastern Louisiana in their home debut.

The Bulldogs surrendered an early first quarter field goal but responded with 34 unanswered points in front of 41,938 at Davis Wade Stadium.

"We took some criticism but did not crumble under pressure," said State head coach Sylvester Croom. "That is a step forward for me to know how to deal with this team. We can move forward from here. This is a home win and we are very excited about it and we will enjoy it for 24 hours and get ready for the next game."

MSU rolled up 401 yards of total offense against the Lions chewing up 216 yards on the ground and throwing for 185 more.

"We executed things better tonight," Croom said. "We moved the ball like we wanted in the beginning, but we had some key errors.

Junior running back Anthony Dixon led the Bulldog ground game with 80 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns.

"I felt like my old self from last year," Dixon said. "I was just trying to get it going and get us some momentum going into next week. That's a big thing and I think we did that."

With Dixon's two scores, he now moves into second place on State's all-time touchdown list with 25 career trips to the end zone.

Sophomore Wesley Carroll also looked impressive hitting on 15-of-23 passing for 158 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

"We all had a lot of pressure on us," Carroll said. "We lost our first game and didn't play like ourselves. Fortunately, the great thing about any sport is you've got the next game. Obviously, we certainly came out and played more Mississippi State football."

Junior wide receiver Brandon McRae also had a career night hauling in eight passes for 72 yards and his second touchdown of the season.

"I'm just out there executing Coach (Woody) McCorvey's plays," McRae said. "In practice, I'm out there giving it my all, trying to help my team win."

It was Southeastern Louisiana that struck first on their second possession of the game. Jeff Turner converted an early 46-yard field goal to give the Lions an early 3-0 lead.

But Mississippi State answered on the ensuing possession. The Bulldog offense got out of a jam when Carroll hit Marcus Green on a 50-yard hook-up on third down that brought the ball to the SELA 14-yard line.

"That ball thrown to Marcus was called to go to Co-Eric (Riley), but he was covered so Wesley found Marcus," Croom said. "And that is what I want more of from Wesley is taking what the defense gives him and not forcing the ball like he did last week. If he does what he is supposed to do and read the coverage, we will make the play."

Dixon did the rest busting outside for a 14-yard touchdown run with 5:39 in the first quarter.

Adam Carlson kicked the extra point for the 7-3 lead.

After their defense forced a three-and-out on the next drive, MSU once again appeared to have it's offense rolling. Jamayel Smith broke into the open field on a reverse but fumbled the football away when he was hit by Travis Williams. Mark Newbell fell on the ball ending the drive for the Bulldogs.

State's defense again stood strong holding the Lions to three-and-out forcing a punt.

The Bulldog offense came back on the field to string out a 17-play, 64-yard drive that included four first downs and a fourth down conversion. But Mississippi State failed to get in the end zone and had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Carlson for a 10-3 advantage with 10:00 in the second quarter.

Southeastern Louisiana failed to achieve a first down again on their next drive and punted the ball back to the Bulldogs. On the first play from scrimmage, Carroll sprang loose up the middle picking up 20-yards and a first down but coughed up the football. Williams scooped up the ball for the second turnover of the game.

The Lions failed to move the ball again offensively and punted the ball back to MSU. Derek Pegues returned the ball 14-yards to the SELA 31-yard line. But the Bulldogs had to settle for a field goal as Carlson's 41-yard attempt split the uprights extending the lead to 13-3 with 5:54 before the half.

State scored once more before intermission taking over near midfield. The Bulldogs drove 46-yard in nine plays and gambled by scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run with only 0:10 left before halftime. Carroll rolled out of the pocket to his left and found Austin Wilbanks wide open in the end zone on an underhanded pitch.

"I just rolled out," Carroll said. "I think the fullback got held up, they tackled the fullback. He was actually the first look but then I saw No. 84 pop wide open. I gave him a little Brett Favre little pitch out there."

"He wasn't even looking at me until the last second," Wilbanks said. "I thought I was going to have to block, but he flipped it to me. It kind of surprised me but I caught it and I was ready."

Carlson's point after gave Mississippi State a 20-3 separation at the break.

The Bulldog offense picked right back up where it left off on the opening drive of the second half. MSU took their opening possession 65-yards in 11 plays that included four first downs. The drive was capped off by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Carroll to McRae, who used his 6-4 frame to sky over a Lion defender for the score.

Carlson booted the extra point for the 27-3 lead.

Southeastern Louisiana's Jay Lucas fumbled on the subsequent drive forced by Dominic Douglas and recovered by Cortez McCraney at the SELA 27-yard line.

The Bulldogs wasted little time moving into the end zone in five plays when Dixon took a draw 7-yards up the middle and across the goal line with 6:21 left in the third. Carlson's point after was again true giving State a 34-3 advantage.

The Bulldogs went to its second offensive unit for the next drive and they also drove into field goal range. The back-up squad went 41-yards yards in nine plays to set up a 32-yard field goal try by Carlson. The kick knuckled no good on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The Lions capitalized on a 70-yard pass reception from [DB]Tyler Beatty[/db] to DeMario Simmons late in the game to set up a 1-yard touchdown by Lucas. Turner added the extra point to end the scoring.

Defensively, Mississippi State held the Lions in check. Southeastern Louisiana was held without a first down through the second and third quarters. The Bulldogs only allowed 148 total yards with 115 yards via the air and 33 on the ground.

McCraney and Charles Mitchell led MSU defensively with five stops each. McCraney also added a sack and a fumble recovery.

The Bulldogs recorded five sacks in the contest with McCraney, Tim Bailey, K.J. Wright, Jimmie Holmes and LaMarcus Williams getting to the quarterback.

Beatty came off the bench to complete 4-of-10 passing for 97 yards to lead the Lions. Starter Mike Neville only managed 18 yards on 3-of-10 passing.

Lucas finished with 22 yards rushing on nine totes for Southeastern Louisiana.

The game evened the records for both schools at 1-1. Southeastern Louisiana will host South Dakota next Saturday while the Bulldogs will open Southeastern Conference play against Auburn.

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