MURFREESBORO, Tenn., - Mississippi State's goal on Saturday at Middle Tennessee was to limit the turnovers that have plagued them in three consecutive losses.
The Bulldogs did that and more not turning the ball over a single time and also held Middle Tennessee out of the end zone in a 27-6 win on the road at Floyd Stadium.
"We needed a win bad," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "Our guys are giving what we've asked of them. We are giving the effort and they are giving the fight, toughness and playing for four quarters and what they needed was a win and take that next step. This today was a big win for us and hopefully launches us into a great second half of our season."
MSU running back Anthony Dixon became the school's all-time leading rusher in the contest with 3,299 yards. He also became the career leader with 100-yards games with 14 including his last five outings. Dixon rushed 27 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns against the Blue Raiders.
"I started thinking the record probably the first day I stepped foot on campus," Dixon said. "I want to be the best no doubt. If I'm going to do this thing I might as well do it big. I wanted to chase the best and didn't want to settle for the best. I didn't want to cheat myself. I set my goals high and it's a dream come true."
Mississippi State (3-4) accumulated 333 yards on offense with 178 yards on the ground and 155 yards through the air.
"Offensively I don't think we executed at a very high level," Mullen said. "We need to punch it in when we get down there. We didn't turn the ball over today and we won, imagine that. If you play great defense and take care of the football you are going to have a chance to win a lot of football games."
Tyson Lee again played the entire way due to the ongoing suspension of Chris Relf. Lee completed 14 of 20 passing for 155 yards and also added a 39-yard rushing touchdown to aid the State cause. But more importantly for him is the fact that he did not turn the ball over on the day.
"We didn't turn the ball over and that's the number one thing we didn't do today," Lee said. "That was the first and foremost thing."
Lee did fumble twice but both balls were recovered by State.
Arnil Stallworth was the leading receiver for the Bulldogs with four catches out of the backfield for 71 yards.
The Bulldogs led the entire game and started the game off by pinning Middle Tennessee on their end of the field for most of the first quarter, the Bulldogs finally got on the board on their third drive. Lee faked a handoff to Dixon scampered untouched 39-yards straight up the middle for a career-long touchdown.
"The only thing on my mind was I didn't want them to get the ball," Dixon said. "I just had to make sure I held onto the ball and make sure I didn't get into the swinging mode because I knew they were there."
Derek DePasquale came on to kick the extra point giving Mississippi State a 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs second score was put together after a 16-play, 78-yard drive that spilled into the second quarter and resulted in a 24-yard field goal by DePasquale extending the lead to 10-0.
After serving a one-quarter suspension for missing a conditioning workout, Dwight Dasher came in at quarterback setting up Middle Tennessee for their first points of the afternoon. Dasher drove the ball down inside the 1-yard line but was kept out on three consecutive rushing tries.
"They got down there by throwing the ball and we got out of our lanes," said MSU linebacker Jamar Chaney. "We knew when they got down there that they were pretty much going to try to run it in with their quarterback. We were really just keying him the whole time."
Alan Gendreau came on and kicked a 18-yard field goal cutting the lead to 10-3 with 7:10 remaining before the half.
The Bulldogs answered right back on the ensuing drive when Dixon broke through the line with a 57-yard touchdown jaunt breaking Jerious Norwood's rushing record.
DePasquale added the PAT with 5:37 on the clock.
Middle Tennessee pushed the ball inside the 1-yard line before the end of the half but was turned away by the Bulldog defense. Gendreau came on to add another field goal from 24-yards out holding the lead to 17-6 as the teams retreated to the locker room.
MSU came up with a field goal of their own on the second drive of the third quarter. DePasquale drilled a 36-yarder putting the Bulldogs up 20-6.
Middle Tennessee appeared to have slashed into the lead early in the fourth quarter but Dasher's 36-yard touchdown pass was called back for offensive pass interference on Chris McClover . After the marking off the penalty yards, Dasher was picked off by Corey Broomfield on the next play ending the threat.
"It was a real big confidence booster," Broomfield said. "I went down (on the previous play) but there is nothing like showing your teammates that you're ready to go the next play."
The Bulldogs would go on to intercept Middle Tennessee three more times in the quarter with another from Broomfield and a pair of first career picks from Johnthan Banks. Banks second interception came at midfield and was returned to the 25-yard line to set up the Bulldogs final score.
Following a 21-yard completion from Lee to Stallworth down to the 1-yard line, Dixon went over the top across the goal line and was flipped in midair and landed on his feet in the end zone with 1:02 remaining in the game. DePasquale's point after wrapped up the scoring.
Middle Tennessee (3-3) was limited to 248 yards on the day with 206 yards passing and only 42 yards on the ground and turned the ball over four times in the fourth quarter.
Dasher led the Blue Raiders in rushing as well as passing. He completed 11 of 22 passing for no touchdowns and three interceptions as well as picking up 47 yards on 13 carries.
"When your best rushing is coming out of your quarterback, it is tough to win games," said Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Stockstill. "A little bit was MSU, a little was us."
Garrett Andrews paced the Blue Raider receiving corps with four catches for 49 yards.
Chris White led the MSU defense with seven tackles followed by Broomfield with five stops and Banks, K.J. Wright, and Fletcher Cox with four tackles each. Devin Jones recorded the only Bulldog sack on the day.
Cam Robinson made nine tackles to lead Middle Tennessee along with eight stops by Antwan Davis and Chris McCoy, Kevin Brown and Danny Carmichael with seven tackles each. Jeremy Kellem and Emmanuel Perez each notched a sack for the Blue Raiders.
Mississippi State will be back in Starkville next week hosting defending national champion Florida at 6:30 p.m.