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Mississippi State opens 2021 football season with 35-34 comeback win over Louisiana Tech

The Bulldogs begin the 2021 football season 1-0!

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

STARKVILLE, Miss. — The Mississippi State football team completed its largest comeback in program history to defeat Louisiana Tech 35-34 in Saturday’s season opener at Davis Wade Stadium.

Mississippi State (1-0) found itself down 34-14 with 13:11 to play before scoring 21 unanswered points. Louisiana Tech (0-1) had a chance for a game-winning field goal, but redshirt freshman kicker Jacob Barnes’ 46-yard attempt was well short and secured the win for MSU.

Sophomore quarterback Will Rogers completed 39 of 47 passes for 370 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Wide receiver Jamire Calvin, a graduate transfer from Washington State, led the team with 67 yards receiving and a touchdown, while sophomore receiver Jaden Walley made four catches for 64 yards receiving, including the game-winning 15-yard TD reception. Junior Makai Polk hauled in a team-high 10 catches for 57 yards receiving.

Sophomore running back Jo’quavious Marks carried the ball 12 times for 71 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He also made nine catches for 27 yards, including a 1-yard TD.

Defensively, MSU held the blue and red Bulldogs to 369 total yards, including 268 through the air. Senior safety Fred Peters recorded nine tackles, including one solo tackle. Redshirt junior linebacker Aaron Brule tallied seven tackles and two sacks.

MSU jumped out to a 14-0 lead after Rogers connected with Marks for a 1-yard TD pass and Calvin for a 20-yard TD pass.

Louisiana Tech then scored 34 unanswered points to go up 34-14. Quarterback Austin Kendall, a graduate transfer from West Virginia, found redshirt freshman wide receiver Bub Means for a 72-yard TD pass. Kendall then turned on the wheels and ran in from 59 yards out to tie the game.

A 24-yard TD pass to sophomore receiver Smoke Harris gave Louisiana Tech its first lead of the game with 3:06 to play in the first half. A 20-yard field goal by Barnes extended Louisiana Tech’s lead to 24-14 with 3:06 left in the third quarter before senior linebacker Trey Baldwin returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown and Barnes made a 33-yard field goal to give Louisiana Tech a 34-14 lead with 13:11 to play.

After a big return from sophomore receiver Lideatrick Griffin, Marks rushed for a 1-yard TD to make it 34-21 with 12:01 left. Marks then rushed for another short-yardage score, this time from five yards out, to make it a 34-28 game with 7:24 left.

MSU got the ball right back and Rogers found Walley for a 15-yard strike to put MSU in front 35-34 with 3:37 to play.

The Bulldogs will be back in action next Saturday when they host North Carolina State at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.