FORT WORTH, Texas — The Mississippi State football team finished its first year under head coach Mike Leach with a 28-26 win over No. 22 Tulsa on Thursday afternoon in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.
The Bulldogs finished the 2020 season 4-7, while the Golden Hurricane finished 6-3. MSU is now 14-10 all-time in bowl games. Tulsa fell to 10-12 in bowl games.
Freshman quarterback Will Rogers completed 19 of 30 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown.
Junior receiver Austin Williams led the Bulldogs with 42 yards receiving on three catches, while freshman running back Jo’quavious Marks and freshman receiver Jaden Walley added 30 and 27 yards receiving, respectively.
MSU compiled 123 yards on the ground, making it back-to-back games of 100-plus yards rushing for the Bulldogs. They didn’t hit the century mark at all in the first nine games of the season. Marks led the way with 72 yards rushing and a TD on 11 carries. Freshman running back Dillon Johnson added 57 yards rushing on 10 carries.
The Bulldog defense surrendered 484 yards to the Golden Hurricane, including 347 through the air and 137 on the ground. They picked off Tulsa redshirt senior QB Zach Smith twice in the game.
Senior linebacker Erroll Thompson and junior safety Londyn Craft anchored State with nine tackles apiece.
Freshman cornerback Emmanuel Forbes finished with three tackles and an interception that he returned 90 yards for a score. It was his third interception return for a TD, which is a school record and leads the FBS.
MSU opened the game with a 53-yard kick return by freshman receiver Lideatrick Griffin to the Tulsa 39-yard line. The Bulldogs then capped off a quick three-play, 39-yard drive with a 28-yard TD scamper by Marks to give MSU a 7-0 lead with 13:41 left in the first quarter.
Tulsa senior kicker Zack Long hit a 27-yard field goal and a 33-yard field goal in the second quarter to make it a 7-6 game at the halftime break.
The Bulldogs increased their lead to 14-6 with 9:04 left in the third quarter when Rogers rushed for a 13-yard score.
A 14-yard TD run by Tulsa sophomore running back Deneric Prince then made it 14-13 with 6:37 left in the third quarter.
On the next drive, the Golden Hurricane stopped MSU on fourth-and-3 and Tulsa took over. On that drive, Forbes picked off Smith and returned it 90 yards to make it 21-13 with 3:29 left in the third quarter.
A 5-yard TD run by Tulsa redshirt senior running back Corey Taylor II made it 21-19 with 12:30 to play. The Golden Hurricane attempted a 2-point conversion to tie things up, but they failed.
Rogers then connected with Griffin from 13 yards out to increase the MSU lead to 28-19 with 8:01 to play.
Then with Tulsa driving inside the MSU 10-yard line, MSU got a big interception from junior linebacker Tyrus Wheat.
The Golden Hurricane were able to stop State quickly on the ensuing drive and Smith capitalized with a 15-yard TD pass to senior receiver Keylon Stokes to draw within two points at 28-26 with 1:23 left. Tulsa tried an onside kick, but it was recovered by Williams and MSU was able to run out the clock.