Between the change in coaches and the return of a senior quarterback Will Rogers, Mississippi State (5-6) easily beat in-state rival Southern Miss (3-8) on Saturday afternoon, snapping a three-game losing streak for the Bulldogs.
The return of Rogers for the first time since October 7 certainly made the offense more productive than they have been, totaling 382 yards. Despite Rogers only tossing for 144 yards, he threw two touchdown passes as the Bulldogs ran for 238 yards with four separate backs.
The 41-20 win was the first for Mississippi State interim head coach Greg Knox since he led the Bulldogs to a bowl win in 2017 following Dan Mullen’s resignation. Knox took over earlier this week after the firing of Zach Arnett.
“They took the team that we went over every day in the meetings and bought into it. They had a really productive week of practice, and I was very pleased with their attitude and effort,” Knox said after the game.
Southern Miss jumped out early, forcing a turnover on downs on Mississippi State’s opening possession. The Golden Eagles then found the end zone with freshman quarterback Ethan Crawford connecting with running back Frank Gore, Jr. on an eight-yard score.
The upset alert quickly woke up the Bulldogs. With Rogers tossing an eight-yard touchdown to Lideatrick Griffin and two field goals from Kyle Ferrie, Mississippi State took a 16-7 lead into halftime.
Coming out of the locker room, the Bulldogs marched down the field in five plays with Rogers throwing a touchdown to running back Jo’Quavious Marks for a 23-7 lead with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Mississippi State defense was aggressive all day with three sacks, five tackles for loss, and linebacker Nathaniel Watson finishing with nearly 20 tackles.
While the start of the fourth quarter was back and forth with Southern Miss cutting the lead to one possession after receiving and kick return touchdowns from Jakarius Caston, this would be the last time the Golden Eagles would have anything go their way.
On the very next series, Mississippi State running back Jeffery Pittman ran right through the middle on the third play of the drive for a 59-yard touchdown. Southern Miss quarterback Bully Wiles then threw an interception to linebacker Jett Johnson who lateralled the ball to Marcus Sparks who took it 60 yards to the house.
“I thought we played our absolute hardest, I really thought everybody in the locker room spilled everything they had,” Southern Miss head coach Will Hall said. “We lost the turnover battle two to nothing, and we had some tough plays happen to us.”
The Golden Eagles finished with 141 passing yards combined between Crawford and Wiles. Led by Gore, the offense added 105 rushing yards.
Next up for Southern Miss will be a home game against Troy in the final game of the regular season while Mississippi State will welcome Ole Miss to Starkville for the annual Egg Bowl.