LEXINGTON, Ky., - Anthony Dixon has talked all season about carrying his team to victory.
Saturday night the 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior did just that breaking the single-game school rushing record with 252 yards and two touchdowns in Mississippi State's 31-24 win over Kentucky.
"I was just out there trying to grind for my team tonight," Dixon said. "I am really trying to get to a bowl game. That was the thing that is on the top of the list for goals this year. With this win, we are inching closer to that and for that reason I am happy. I was telling people I want to get as many yards as it takes to get a 'W' and it just so happens that's what I got tonight."
Dixon surpassed Jerious Norwood's single-game mark of 247 set against Houston in 2005. Dixon was the Bulldogs workhorse carrying 33 times taking up the slack for knee injuries to senior backs Christian Ducre and Arnil Stallworth during the contest.
"(Dixon) had an unbelievable game," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "He set the school record, 252 yards and we needed every single one of them. He really came up big when Stallworth was down with the injury and kept getting dinged up. Ducre was getting a little more hurt also. But when those two went down we were kind of limited and we've built so much up on those senior tailbacks. Anthony really stepped up and make a bunch of plays."
Dixon also did not a have a negative rush of his 33 attempts.
MSU finished the evening with 493 yards of offense with 348 yards on the ground and another 145 via the air.
"We came in and fell behind in the first half but kept telling our guys to keep battling; good things are going to happen to you," Mullen said. "They continued to battle, they continued to fight and in the end of the day they came out on top. I think it was a real big step for this team."
Tyson Lee bounced back from two first half interceptions to finish the game completing 10-of-17 passing for 145 yards and one touchdown.
"Tyson did a great job," Mullen said. "He's given us everything he has. He continues to battle and try to improve himself. I know he gets frustrated at times but the key is for him not to get frustrated and to want to learn and for us to continue to coach him."
O'Neal Wilder was the recipient of Lee's 67-yard touchdown and ended the evening with two catches for 72 yards and the lone score.
Mississippi State took advantage of the first turnover of the game and quickly cashed it into points. Morgan Newton's lateral to Randall Cobb was fumbled and recovered by Chris White at the MSU 37-yard line midway through the first quarter.
The Bulldogs took over from there and reached field goal range on a 37-yard run by Dixon. The drive stalled but Derek DePasquale came on to boot a 33-yard field goal for the first points of the game.
Kentucky answered right back on the ensuing drive. The Wildcats marched 59-yards in seven plays capped off by a 10-yard touchdown scamper by Derrick Locke. Lones Seiber kicked the extra point putting Kentucky ahead 7-3 with 1:23 remaining in the opening quarter.
State marched their next possession down to the 2-yard line and went for it on fourth down but Lee was intercepted in the end zone by Sam Maxwell to start the second quarter and keep the score intact.
Lee tossed his second interception of the evening on the Bulldogs next possession to Randall Burden. But this time the Wildcats were able to capitalize on the turnover orchestrating an eight-play, 41-yard drive that was extended when Pernell McPhee was called for offsides on a third down stop. Newton finished things off on a 11-yard keeper. Seiber booted the PAT building the lead to 14-3.
Mississippi State answered with a scoring drive of their own. Chris Relf was inserted in at quarterback and broke loose on a 52-yard jaunt that set up a 1-yard plunge over the top by Dixon. DePasquale's extra point pulled the Bulldogs within 14-10 with 3:43 remaining before the half.
Kentucky would extend their advantage before the first half expired. Cobb tore off a 47-yard punt return that set up a 38-yard field goal by Seiber giving the Wildcats a 17-10 lead heading into the locker room.
MSU caught a break on the first drive of the second half when Charles Mitchell jarred the ball away from Alfonso Smith into the awaiting arms of Jamar Chaney at midfield.
The Bulldogs cashed the mistake into seven points going to the ground seven straight times and scoring when Ducre plowed in from 2-yards out. DePasquale's PAT tied things up with 11:48 in the third quarter.
Kentucky responded right back on their next possession moving the chains five times en route to a eight-play, 65-yard drive resulting in a 3-yard quarterback draw by Cobb. Seiber kicked the extra point putting the Wildcats back up by a touchdown.
It did not take long for State to strike back. On the second play of the ensuing possession, Lee faked the option to Dixon, dropped back and fired a 67-yard bomb to a streaking Wilder for the score.
"O'Neal got behind him and Tyson didn't lose his confidence," Mullen said. "He delivered the ball and I think it was a huge play in the game. The score was going back and forth and that gave us some momentum."
DePasquale booted the extra point nodding things back up.
The Bulldogs regained the lead on their most impressive drive of the night. Mississippi State went 87-yards in only eight plays. Dixon churned out a 47-yard jaunt followed later by a key 28-yard third down conversion to set up a 3-yard Dixon score. DePasquale booted the point after giving State a 31-24 advantage to close out the third quarter.
Kentucky came back with a long drive of their own getting down to the 4-yard line before Chaney picked off Newton preserving the Bulldogs lead which would stand for the remainder of the game.
"I didn't see it until the last minute but I know McPhee got pressure," Chaney said. "He was probably trying to throw it out of bounds but by McPhee getting pressure on him he didn't get it all the way out of bounds. Thank you Jesus, I just looked up and the ball was right there in my hands."
The Wildcats (4-4, 1-4) managed 308 yards on offense with 189 yards rushing and another 119 yards passing.
"It's extremely disappointing," said UK head coach Rich Brooks. "You have to give Mississippi State credit, they outcoached us and they outplayed us. We were in position at halftime to take care of business then immediately turn it over and allow them to go right through us. I'm not sure I remember a team running a ball as effectively on us the way they did and most of it was between the tackles. You've got to give them a lot of credit. They came in here and did what they had to do and we didn't do what we had to do."
Cobb accounted for 237 all-purpose yards and one touchdown. He had 188 return yards, two catches for 32 yards and 17 additional yards and a score on the ground.
"They beat us across the board, every aspect of the game," Cobb said. "We didn't do anything right. We did run our plan coming into the game. We didn't run the plays we wanted to run. They put a lot of stress on us offensively. We couldn't move the ball when we wanted to. It was just tough for us."
Newton connected on 11-of-18 passing for 119 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
Locke was Kentucky's leading rusher with 103 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown.
Chaney led the Bulldogs defensively with 15 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sack, one interception and one fumble recovery. K.J. Wright also made double-digit stops with 10 including one for loss while White and Marcus Washington finished with eight tackles each.
Micah Johnson played through injury to lead Kentucky with 11 tackles followed by Maxwell, Calvin Harrison and Danny Trevathan with eight stops apiece.
The win was the third consecutive road victory for the Bulldogs, who improve to 4-5 on the year and 2-3 within the Southeastern Conference. MSU will enjoy a bye week before hosting Alabama on Nov. 14.
"It has been a big thing for us this season to just come out and play ball and build on what he have been doing," said MSU center J.C. Brignone. "The things that we did in the offseason and in the summer, we took all of that and used it to play in games. We have played a lot of close games that came down to the wire and we couldn't finish so we knew coming into this game that we had to win if we wanted a chance at a bowl game and how we wanted things to work out for us. A win like that, coming out and shoving the ball down their throat and doing what we have been doing is great."