Out of all the recorded games on my DVR, I was most looking forward to watching this game again. It was a perfect night in Starkville, and a very exciting game. Half the crowd in maroon, half in white. Tennessee still had something in the tank coming off a bye week and a pretty close game in Athens. Here's how it went down...
Derek Dooley, recovering from hip surgery, was coaching from the press box.
State gets the ball first, 29 yard reception by Marcus Green right off the bat. Russell follows that up with pass to Bump for another 1st down, Perkins picks up 10, then another 10 for Bump plus 15 for a face mask. But that's where the drive stalls out after two incompletions and a pass to Bumphis for no gain. Devon Bell hits a FG. 3-0 State.
Joe Tessitore said the doctor who performed Dooley's surgery played at Mississippi State. I don't think that got enough play, if it was actually true.
Tyler Bray and the Vol offense took the field and move the ball as well as State did, but they ended the drive with a touchdown run by Rajion Neal. MSU's defense didn't do much to slow them down: 10 plays, 75 yards 3:30. 7-3 Tennessee.
UT's kickoff goes out of bounds, Dawgs start off their 2nd drive on the 35. They brought the blitz on the first play, Russell did well to side-step the first defender, but he got sacked when he made his way toward the sideline. 3rd & 19 from the MSU 26, Russell rolls out of a collapsed pocket and then hits Chris Smith for a 20-yard catch and 1st down. Once in the redzone, Josh Robinson takes over for a 9 yard run and 10 yard TD run to cap off the drive. 10-7 State.
Chris Wilson brought Skinner on a nice LB blitz and forced an errant throw on 2nd down. Then again, some more pressure on 3rd down, this time with Banks and Lawrence dropped back in coverage. Bray threw it short of the line to gain, and it was 3 and out. The punt took a Bulldog bounce and netted 14 yards. An illegal formation against Tennessee was tacked onto the end of the kick, so State started their drive on the UT 40.
End of the 1st quarter, MSU 10, UT 7.
At the 18, Dak Prescott comes in and runs it 6 yards up the middle. On 2nd down, just as the announcers are discussing his Tebow similarities in role and number, he takes one of Tebow's signature plays - fake the run and then throws a TD pass to a wide open Marcus Green in the endzone. It was Prescott's first career TD pass. 17-7 State.
Davis Wade was rocking, everyone was pumped. Cordarelle Patterson. What a run, 98 yard kickoff return from a stellar athlete. The way he can cut on a dime, then accelerate back to full speed in a flash is amazing. Just like that, 17-14 State.
The MSU offense goes back out, and keeps moving the ball. After a couple of first downs, Russell fakes a quick pass to Bump and then hits Arceto Clark for a 20 yard gain. Just 21 minutes into the game, Tyler has 162 yards passing. The drive stalls out in the red zone, Bell kicks a 24 yarder. 20-14 State.
The national championship trophy (The Coaches Trophy) was sitting on the sidelines for this one.
Devon Bell had booted his first two kickoffs out of the endzone, but his third was to Patterson and that didn't turn out so well. So, he sky-kicks it on this kickoff and Tennessee lets the ball hit the ground, and as soon as it does Taveze Calhoun corrals it, Mississippi State ball.
Malcolm Johnson, in his first game of the year (torn pectoral muscle) gets his first grab on a big gainer across the middle of the field, 1st and goal Dawgs. Then to the other TE, Marcus Green, for his 2nd TD on the night, 5th of the season. Russell, with 7:46 left in the 1st half, was 15 of 19 for 194 yards. State scored on their first 5 possessions. 27-14 State.
Another 3 and out for the potent Tennessee offense.
Josh Robinson looking good again with another first down run and State is back in enemy territory. Mullen decided to go for it on 4th & 3 from the 28 and the Dawgs convert on a Brandon Hill reception. Devon Bell attempted a 38 yard field goal, but it stayed just wide right, and so this drive became the first that State didn't score, UT ball.
The Vols were forced into their third consecutive 3 and out, nice job by the defense. Slay, Broomfield and Banks having quite a game. The defensive line getting some help with some help from the linebackers. All together, one of the best halves of football the entire year from the defense...offense too, really.
For the first time all night, the MSU offense isn't able to get anything going, and they are forced to punt after 3 plays. Once Bray gets it back, he goes deep for Patterson, but Broomfield picks it off - the 10th of his career and first since the 2010 Egg Bowl.
Halftime: MSU 27, UT 14
Tennessee got the ball first to start the 2nd half. On the first play Cordarelle Patterson heads towards the sideline on a reverse seemingly caught for a 10 yard loss, but he reverses field and runs for a 34 yard gain - wow. The Vols ended the drive with a field goal. 27-17 State.
On 3rd and 10, Marcus Green was only able to pick up 9 and the Bulldogs were forced to punt, a 3 and out.
Nickoe Whitley had probably his biggest hit of the year - reminiscent of some 2011 hits, on UT's next drive, when he stuffed Watson for a 3 yard loss. On the next play, Nickoe delivered another blow on a tackle but it was a first down to get the Vols inside the MSU 30. On the next play, Banks covered Patterson well, and batted away the pass. But Tennessee could not be stopped on this drive, which ultimately led to an 11 yard TD reception by Patterson. 27-24 State.
Tyler Russell was sacked on the first play of the next drive and it wound up another 3 and out. Tobias Smith was out for the last two series and it showed, State couldn't get anything going.
Bray gets into MSU territory yet again, but he is stopped. On 4 & 6 he ends up pooch punting the ball.
End of the 3rd quarter: MSU 27, UT 24
Perk starts the 4th quarter off right with a big run, picking up MSU's first 1st down of the 2nd half. Russell threw downfield in the direction of Chris Smith but he telegraphed the pass and it should have been intercepted, but was dropped by the Tennessee defensive back. Drive ends in a punt, and Slay downs it inside the UT 5.
Dawgs D forces a 3 and out.
On 3rd & 2, Russell went for about a 20 yard completion to Marcus Green, but Green had his hands mixed up and wasn't able to come up with the ball. 3 and out.
On 2nd & 3 deep in their own territory, UT ran for a first down but Johnthan Banks came up with one of the biggest plays of the year...stripping the ball and falling on it himself. Wow.
On the next play, Russell hits Bumphis for a 25 yard gain, 1st & goal. Perkins runs it in for the six. 34-24 State.
The attendance, 57,831, was the 3rd largest in school history.
Tennessee got into MSU territory quickly on a Justin Hunter catch. Patterson ran it into the red zone, and a few plays later they were into the endzone again. 34-31 State.
With 5:22 left in the game, the Dawgs got the ball back. A crucial 3 & 7 on their own 40 was converted on a Chad Bumphis slant. Another big catch by Bump and a Perkins run set up a 1st & goal with under 2 minutes left. With :14 left, on 4th & goal, Mullen catches everyone by surprise and throws it to Malcolm Johnson for a 9 yard TD...and incredible catch to put a bow on this game and his return to the field. 41-31 State.
The game ends, and it was a big W for the Bulldogs. MSU 41, UT 31. 6-0.