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December 31, 2013

Prescott and Lewis eat Rice alive in Liberty Bowl blowout

Mississippi State was an eight-point favorite against Rice coming in to the 55th annual Autozone Liberty Bowl. It turned out to be a record-setting night for the Bulldogs (7-6) inside Liberty Bowl Stadium as they used 454 yards of offense and held one of the country's top rushing attacks to 50 yards on their way to a 44-7 blowout win over Rice (10-4) on Tuesday afternoon.

In front of 57,846 (mostly MSU) fans, the Bulldogs rolled to their third bowl victory in the last four years and their third-straight win to finish the 2013 season.

The Owls started the game off at their own 25 after Devon Bell kicked the ball into the end zone. Rice used their first three plays to pick up 11 yards and a first down to the 36. Rice would get the ball to the MSU 40, but the defensive secondary held and forced a punt starting at their own 10.

Dak Prescott started out strong with a powerful five-yard run and an 11-yard pass to Jameon Lewis for the first down. Ladarius Perkins followed that up with an 11-yard run on his own to get the Bulldogs out to the 36. Facing third and 10, Prescott hit Robert Johnson for what appeared to be a first down but he fumbled the ball away and it was recovered by the Owls at the MSU 45.

Rice started their second drive the same as the first facing a third and short but this time MSU held them short of the first. On fourth down and 1, Luke Turner ran out of the wildcat formation for 13 yards all the way down to 23. On second down, the Bulldogs brought the blitz and Benardrick McKinney got the sack. On third down and 10, McHargue found a wide open Dennis Parks for 18 yards down to the five yard line. Two plays later, the Owls were in the end zone with Charles Ross hitting paydirt. Rice led, 7-0, with 6:41 left in the first.

Lewis gave the Bulldogs decent room on the kick return bringing it out to the 27 and MSU started their second drive. On the second play of the drive, Prescott found a wide open Lewis for 17 yards to the 47. On third and 14, Prescott pumped fake a defender, scrambled and weaved his way through the defense for 19 yards and a first down. Prescott would again make a big play hitting Lewis on the right side of the field for 28 yards to the 11. On second down, Prescott hit Perkins on a wheel route for the 10-yard touchdown to tie the game at seven with two minutes left in the quarter.

After a quick forced three and out by the defense, MSU took over at their own 36 and that's where the first quarter ended. Prescott converted the first third down of the drive with a seven-yard pass to De'Runnya Wilson but State faced another third down just three plays later. Prescott would again make a play hitting Lewis for 35 yards to the two. A couple of plays later, Ashton Shumpert took the handoff at fullback and got in the end zone to give MSU the 14-7 lead with 9:49 left in the half.

After a strong play by Shumpert on the special teams' tackle, Rice started at their own 16 and would be pushed further back with a chop block on first down putting them at the nine. The Bulldogs forced a three and out and took over at its own 36. Prescott again started the drive with a big gainer to Lewis for 28 yards down the field to put the junior receiver over 100 yards on the day. Prescott took a option up the middle for 11 yards and another for nine yards for two first downs putting the Bulldogs at the 18. Prescott would roll out to the left side drawing the defense to him and then turned and threw opposite field finding Malcolm Johnson who took it in the end zone for 13 yards. MSU led 20-7 with 4:32 left in the half.

Rice drove the ball down to the MSU 40, but the Bulldogs got a stop and forced the Owls to a fourth and three. Under pressure, McHargue had nowhere to go and was engulfed by Denico Autry and a host of other Bulldogs. With just over one minute left in the half, the Bulldogs appeared to be heading into halftime but Prescott took a shot down the field to a wide open Lewis for 65 yards down to the five. On third down on the drive, Prescott hit freshman Artimus Samuel in the back of the end zone for six points. It was the true freshman's first career touchdown and gave the Bulldogs a halftime lead of 27-7.

Prescott and Lewis ran the show in the first half as the quarterback was 12-19 passing for 228 yards and three touchdowns for a career-high touchdowns. Lewis had the game of his life in just one half hauling in six passes for 181 yards. The yardage was good enough for the greatest single receiving effort in MSU bowl history and a personal career-high.

MSU came right back out firing in the second half as Prescott rushed up the middle for nine yards followed by a five-yard run by Perkins to move the chains. A third down run by Prescott had MSU into Rice territory when Perkins took a draw play up the middle for 14 yards and State was in business at the 36. State would stall right there with Prescott being sacked on third down and punting the ball for the first time of the game.

The Bulldog defense would get another three and out however, and take over at their own 39. The Bulldogs would use their legs on this drive as Prescott converted another third down on a 10-yard run and became lead blocker on the next play as Robinson went down the left sideline for 40 yards. The immediate play following, Prescott walked into the end zone. It was his fourth total touchdown of the game and first on the ground giving MSU the 34-7 lead with over seven minutes left.

The Bulldogs gave up a first down to Rice, but Ryan Brown and then A.J. Jefferson got consecutive sacks to get the ball back. Prescott hit Lewis again to start the drive for 34 yards and another pass for 18 to Wilson inside the 15. Prescott would finish off the drive with an 11-yard rush for a touchdown, his second of the game, to give the Bulldogs a 41-7 lead with 1:42 left in the third.

Rice quickly gave the ball back to the Bulldogs on a fumble that was recovered by Matthew Wells giving MSU the ball at the 29. Freshman Damian Williams started the fourth quarter at quarterback and pushed the chains forward with a five-yard rush to the 15. Lewis hauled in his ninth pass of the night for 12 yards to the four giving him 220 yards on the night for an MSU all-time record. State would get down to the one yard line on third down and was faced with a fourth and goal and the Bulldogs through an incompletion to turn it over on downs.

In the waning minutes of the game, Taylor Earhart hit a field goal to provide the final points of the evening as MSU dismantled Rice in impressive fashion, 44-7.

The Bulldogs were led by game MVP Prescott who was 17-28 passing for 283 yards and three touchdowns. Prescott did it on the ground, too, as he rushed 14 times for 78 yards and two more touchdowns. His 361 yards were the most total yards in school history in bowls and the fifth most in Liberty Bowl history.

Lewis also had a phenomenal performance earning the game's offensive MVP with an MSU and Liberty Bowl record 220 yards on nine catches.

Preston Smith was named the defensive player of the game for MSU leading the team in tackles with six.

The Bulldogs won their sixth bowl game in the last seven and Dan Mullen has now won more bowl games (3) than anyone in MSU history.


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