STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State’s defense stepped up in a big way in a 24-17 homecoming win over the Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday evening inside Davis Wade Stadium.
The Bulldogs snap a four-game losing streak and improve to 2-4. The win also gives MSU an 11th consecutive win on homecoming. The Commodores fall to 0-5.
The Commodores outgained the Bulldogs 478 yards to 204 yards, but the Mississippi State defense forced five turnovers in the game.
Freshman quarterback Will Rogers, who made his first start, completed 35 of 46 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown. Junior receiver Malik Heath led State with nine catches for 79 yards receiving. Fifth-year senior receiver Osirus Mitchell caught four balls for 32 yards and a score.
The ground game remains nonexistent, as the Bulldogs rushed for minus-22 yards on 11 carries. Freshman running back Jo’quavious Marks carried the ball six times for 10 yards and a score. He also had seven catches for 22 yards receiving. Freshman running back Dillon Johnson had one rush, which resulted in a 4-yard score.
MSU’s defense surrendered 336 yards passing to Vanderbilt freshman quarterback Ken Seals, who completed 31 of his 46 passes. Seals tossed one touchdown and three interceptions. His top target was junior receiver Cam Johnson, who finished with 114 yards receiving.
The Bulldog defense gave up 142 yards rushing. Sophomore running back Keyon Henry-Brooks led the Commodores with 20 rushes for 115 yards and a score. He also had 11 catches for 97 yards.
Mississippi State sophomore cornerback Martin Emerson, sophomore linebacker Aaron Brule, junior safety Marcus Murphy and junior safety Landon Guidry all finished with 10 tackles each.
Senior linebacker Erroll Thompson finished with seven tackles and an interception, while sophomore safety Collin Duncan and senior defensive end Marquiss Spencer both added six tackles and an interception. Junior linebacker Tyrus Wheat came away with six tackles, two forced fumbles and a sack.
The Bulldogs deferred to start the game, but they quickly got the ball when Duncan picked off Seals on the first drive of the game. Five plays later, Rogers hit Mitchell on a 6-yard touchdown to make it 7-0 with 11:47 left in the first quarter.
On the next drive, Rogers had seven consecutive completions for 51 yards to get down to Vanderbilt’s 17-yard line. Johnson capped off the 11-play, 68-yard drive with a 4-tard touchdown run to make it 14-0 with 2:33 left in the opening quarter.
Junior kicker Brandon Ruiz’s 25-yard field goal capped off the first-half scoring to give State a 17-0 lead at the halftime break.
In the second half, the Commodores scored touchdowns on consecutive drives in the late third and early fourth quarters. Seals connected with senior running back Chris Pierce Jr. for a 2-yard score before Henry-Brooks rushed for a 27-yard score to make it 17-14 with 12:27 to play.
A fumble recovery from Wheat set up a short MSU drive that ended with Marks diving in from a yard out to extend the Bulldog lead to 24-14 with 2:43 left.
The Commodores would manage a late field goal, but an onside kick attempt following the field goal was recovered by the Bulldogs.
MSU will continue its two-game homestand next Saturday when it welcomes No. 24 Auburn to Davis Wade Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. CT and will be televised by SEC Network.