MSU win marks big improvement
By By Tony Krausz/assistant sports editor
October 5, 2003
STARKVILLE Mississippi State University got off to its best start in a ball game this year in the team's 30-21 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday.
The Bulldogs entered halftime holding a 17-7 advantage, scoring two touchdowns and converting a 34-yard field goal attempt.
MSU entered the afternoon contest being outscored in the first half 87-26 in its first four games of the year. The Bulldogs had given up 56 points in the first quarter, and they had not recorded a point in a game's opening 15 minutes, until Saturday.
MSU tallied a five-yard touchdown run in the opening quarter, and the team scored on a 15-yard pass and a field goal in the second quarter.
Vanderbilt's lone score off the opening half came in the second quarter on a 33-yard touchdown reception.
The 2003 Bulldogs sidestepped becoming the first team in the program's 125-year history to open a football season 0-5.
The designation of opening a season is because the program was required by the NCAA to forfeit wins in 1976 and 1977 that gave the school losses in the initial five games of each season.
MSU's win over Vanderbilt didn't just keep the squad out of the record book, but it also ended the team's nine-game losing streak dating back to last season.
The losing streak was the school's third longest, the Bulldogs' longest losing streak is 10 games from Sept. 10, 1998, to Nov. 26, 1988.
Fant moves up
MSU senior quarterback Kevin Fant entered Saturday's game against Vanderbilt needing just five completions to move to No. 2 on the school's all-time completions list.
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Moss Point native completed his first five passes in the opening half to tie Derrick Tate, who played for MSU from 1993-96 and completed 362 passes, for second on the list.
Fant ended the game completing 18-of-30 passing attempts giving him a career total of 375 to take sole possession of the No. 2 spot. He trails only Wayne Madkin, who completed 462 passes.
Though the series between MSU and Vanderbilt dates back to 1904, the two teams met for only the 18th time on Saturday.
The Bulldogs entered the contest winning seven of the two teams' meetings, including a 42-14 win on Oct. 2, 1999, the last time the two programs played each other.
The Commodores have played the Bulldogs the least of among the SEC's 13 charter members.
Bumps and bruises
The Bulldogs lost the services of redshirt freshman Otis Riddley on the team's first offensive play of the game.
The 6-foot-1, 340-pounder was carried off the field one-and-half minutes into the game.
MSU head coach Jackie Sherrill said Riddley will be out for the rest of the year because of the knee injury he suffered at the start of the game.
Taking on the East
MSU's contest against Vanderbilt was the Bulldogs first game against an SEC Eastern Division opponent this season.
With the win, MSU now holds an all-time record of 19-15 against teams from the East, and it has a 13-6 record against Eastern Division foes at home.
The Bulldogs will face Kentucky on Oct. 25 and Tennessee on Nov. 15 in their other match ups against foes from the East. Both games will be on the road for MSU.