ATHENS, Ga. — The Mississippi State Bulldogs put on an impressive showing against the No. 13 Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium Saturday night, but the home Georgia Bulldogs avoided the upset and came away with a 31-24 victory.
Mississippi State (2-5) traveled to Georgia (5-2) with just 49 scholarship players and was in a dogfight with a very good Georgia team until the final moments. If you believe in moral victories, this is one.
Prior to Saturday’s game, MSU accumulated an average of 229 yards of offense in its last four games. The State offense then came alive against Georgia and compiled 358 yards of offense, including 336 through the air and 22 on the ground.
True freshman quarterback Will Rogers had a career day and completed 41 of his 52 passes for 336 yards and a touchdown.
Freshman wide receiver Jaden Walley had a phenomenal game, finishing with seven receptions for 115 yards and one touchdown. Fifth-year senior receiver Osirus Mitchell added seven catches for 53 yards.
Freshman running back Dillon Johnson carried the ball eight times for 19 yards and two touchdowns. He also made seven catches for 42 yards. Freshman running back Jo’quavious Marks added 16 yards rushing and 23 yards receiving.
Defensively, Mississippi State took a step back. MSU came into the game ranked second in the Southeastern Conference in passing defense, allowing an average of just 232.7 yards passing per game.
Georgia redshirt sophomore quarterback JT Daniels, who was making his first start with Georgia, had a terrific showing. The former Southern California QB completed 28 of 37 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns.
He is the first Georgia player with 300 yards passing and four passing touchdowns in a game since Aaron Murray in 2013.
The MSU secondary gave up eight passing plays of 15-plus yards. True freshman Jermaine Burton and sophomore George Pickens were on the receiving end of most of them.
Burton finished with eight catches for a whopping 197 yards and two TDs. Pickens caught eight balls for 87 yards and a score.
The MSU defense did, however, shutdown a Georgia rushing attack that ranked fifth in the SEC. Georgia ran for just eight yards. Sophomore running back Zamir White came into the contest ranked sixth in the SEC in rushing with 509 yards. The Mississippi State defense held him to 11 carries for 21 yards.
MSU was led by sophomore cornerback Martin Emerson with 11 tackles.
Mississippi State opened the game by marching right down into Georgia’s territory. Rogers completed 9-of-11 passes for 63 yards on that drive, but MSU was held to a 22-yard field goal by junior kicker Brandon Ruiz to make it 3-0 with 6:54 left in the first quarter.
Daniels then took Georgia on an 11-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard TD pass to Pickens to take a 7-3 lead with 12:28 left in the first half.
MSU responded with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off with a 4-yard TD run by Johnson to make it 10-7 with 5:24 left in the half.
A 41-yard field goal by Georgia redshirt sophomore kicker Jack Podlesny then knotted things up at 10-10 with 3:10 left in the opening half.
MSU retook the lead when Rogers connected with Walley on a beautiful touch pass down the right side for a 51-yard score to make it 17-10 MSU with 1:28 left in the half.
Daniels then found Burton for an 18-yard TD connection to make it 17-17 at the halftime break.
Georgia opened the second half with a 48-yard TD to Burton to make it 24-17 with 11:03 to go in the third quarter.
The game was tied up again when Mississippi State went 75 yards on 11 plays and scored on a 3-yard run by Johnson.
Daniels then beat Cover-0 with an absolute dime to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kearis Jackson for a 40-yard score to end the game’s scoring at 31-24.
MSU stays on the road next Saturday, travelling to Oxford, Mississippi, to face rival Ole Miss in the annual Battle for the Golden Egg. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT and will be televised by SEC Network.