Five takeaways help Mississippi State hold off Vandy
Mississippi State forced five Vanderbilt turnovers Saturday afternoon, holding on for a 24-17 Southeastern Conference victory at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss.
State entered the game with an NCAA-worst minus-12 in turnovers, but was plus-5 on Saturday, intercepting Vanderbilt quarterback Ken Seals three times. Linebacker Tyrus Wheat forced a pair of fumbles and added six tackles for MSU (2-4).
Vanderbilt outgained MSU, 478-204, and the Commodores held State to a minus-22 net yards rushing, but the turnovers proved to be decisive.
MSU quarterback Will Rogers made his first career start and was 35 of 46 passing for 226 yards and a touchdown, breaking the school’s single-game freshman mark for completions.
For Vanderbilt (0-5), running back Keyon Henry-Brooks had 212 yards from scrimmage — 115 on 20 rushes and 97 on 11 receptions.
Trailing by a field goal, Vanderbilt got to the MSU 28 with under nine minutes to play, but defensive linemen Marquiss Spencer picked off a Seals pass.
After MSU’s ensuing drive ended with a punt for the seventh successive time, the Bulldogs defense stepped up: Wheat sacked Seals, forced a fumble and recovered it at the Commodore 14.
Running back Jo’quavious Marks cashed in with a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:43 to play that put the Bulldogs ahead to stay.
MSU had opened the scoring by capitalizing on a turnover when safety Collin Duncan picked Vandy’s Seals on the game’s first possession, returning it 28 yards to the Commodore 27. Rogers hit wide receiver Osirus Mitchell for a 6-yard score, with kicker Brandon Ruiz’s point-after giving State a 7-0 advantage.
Running back Dillon Johnson scored on a 4-yard run–the Bulldogs’ first rushing attempt of the day–with 2:43 left in the first quarter.
After the Commodores turned it over on downs at their 45, State’s Ruiz hit a 25-yard field goal with 9:24 left in the second quarter.
Vandy had a first-and-goal at the MSU 2, but State snuffed out two runs and then linebacker Errol Thompson picked off a Seals pass in the end zone.
Still, Seals brought Vanderbilt back with 2-yard strike to wide receiver Chris Pierce for a touchdown with 4:27 left in the third quarter. And early in the fourth quarter, Brooks sprinted through a gaping hole on the left side and went 27 yards untouched, pulling the Commodores to within 17-14.
But the two ensuing turnovers proved fatal, preventing the Commodores from winning in Starkville for the first time since 1971.
A pair of safeties — MSU’s Shawn Preston (first half) and Vandy’s Dashaun Jerkins (second half) were ejected for targeting.
The Tennessean reported Saturday that, owing to injuries and COVID-19 issues, Vanderbilt sent just 58 scholarship players to Starkville, narrowing reaching the SEC minimum of 53.
–Field Level Media