State beats Memphis, again
By By Robbie Robertson / EMG sports writer
Oct. 12, 2003
STARKVILLE When times are tough for Mississippi State football, there is always Memphis.
The Bulldogs led 35-17 and held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat Memphis for the 10th consecutive time with a 35-27 victory in front of a homecoming crowd of 45,329 at Scott Field Saturday.
It was the second straight win for the Bulldogs after starting the season with four straight losses. It was also a matchup between Jackie Sherrill and his former defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn.
But the Bulldog coach wasn't interested in talking about Dunn after the contest.
"Let me just say that players win games and coaches don't," Sherrill said. "These players scratched awful hard and came up and made the plays, especially at the end of the game. We knew coming in that they could throw and catch."
The Bulldogs didn't seem to mind that Dunn was on the other sideline in the first half as the offense had 340 yards of total offense. The Bulldogs had only 41 second-half yards for 381 total yards as Memphis was busy moving at will against the Bulldog defense. On the night, the Tigers had 568 total yards with 322 in the second half.
Trailing 35-27, the Tigers had two chances to tie the game late in the fourth. With six minutes left in the game, the Tigers got the ball on their own 4. They eventually moved the ball down to the Bulldog 2 but Slovakia Griffin sacked Danny Wimprine to force a fourth and goal from the 10, which fell incomplete. The Tigers also got the ball back with 1 minute, 20 seconds left and moved to the Bulldog 29 but Kevin Dockery picked off a Wimprine pass on fourth down to secure the victory.
"Coach Dunn did a great job of making adjustments in the second half," MSU senior quarterback Kevin Fant said. "Look at what he did against Ole Miss. The only thing different for me is I have seen (Dunn's defense) for four years. I was familiar with a lot of things they were doing."
The Bulldogs got on the board first with a 13-play, 80-yard drive on its second possession. The Bulldogs got going after converting a third-and-9 from its own 21 when Fant sidearmed a pass to McKinley Scott for a 38-yard gainer. After a Memphis pass interference kept the drive alive, Fant hit Ray Ray Bivens for a 35-yard gainer to the Memphis 1. Then on third-and-goal, Fant hit Aaron Lumpkin in the back of the end zone for the score with 4:50 left in the first quarter and MSU led 7-0 early.
The Tigers struck back quickly with a 5-play, 80-yard drive on two big gainers. The first was a 38-yard pass from Danny Wimprine to LaDarius Price. Then Darron White ran untouched into the end zone on a misdirection play from 40 yards out with 3:21 left in the first to tie the score at 7-7.
"They caught us in the T one time and we didn't contain the back side very well," Sherrill said. "Our end and our outside linebacker on that side got sucked inside and we didn't contain."
State answered back with another 80-yard drive, this one in seven plays. Fred Reid put MSU deep in Memphis territory with a 25-yard gainer to the Tiger 20. Fant then found Lumpkin again, this time as he rolled right and threw back to his left for a 16-yard touchdown as the first quarter expired for a 14-7 MSU lead.
Again, Memphis answered with a quick-strike drive, going 70 yards in just three plays. The big play on the drive was a 45-yard completion from Wimprine to Maurice Avery to put the Tigers at the MSU 13. The Tigers went back to the misdirection and White scored on an easy 13-yard run with 14:11 left in the first half to tie the game at 14-14.
The game started to resemble a track meet as Reid returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards with 13:45 left in the half to give MSU a 21-14 lead.
"I thought the difference in the game was the kickoff return," Sherrill said. "And then our punter did a great job, averaging 46 yards a punt and our coverage teams covered well and gave us good field position. "
The defenses started to tighten up as State forced a punt and Memphis intercepted Fant. The Tigers added a 32-yard field goal with 2:58 left in the half to cut the lead to 21-17.
The Bulldogs then went on an 8-play, 83-yard drive as Reid scored on a 19-yard run with seven seconds remaining in the half for a 28-17 halftime lead for MSU.
"Kevin did a great job in the first half," Sherrill said of his senior signal caller. "He threw the ball exactly where we wanted it. In the second half, we were just inches away on a couple of deep balls."
The Bulldogs got the first big break of the second half. Placekicker Brent Smith pinned the Tigers deep in their own territory with a pooch kick from the field goal formation.
After the Bulldog defense held, Memphis punter Brandon Roberson bobbled the snap on the punt and true freshman Quinton Culberson stopped him at the Memphis 4.
State needed all four plays to score as Nick Turner stuck the ball over the goal line from the 1 with 2:40 left in the third quarter to make the score 35-17.
Again, the Memphis offense moved down the field with ease. This time, the Tigers went 84 yards in just six plays. The Tigers started the drive with a 44-yard pass from Wimprine to Darren Garcia to put Memphis at the Bulldog 40. Wimprine connected with DeAngelo Williams on a 24-yard completion to move the ball to the MSU 4. Then Wimprine hit Tavarious Davis for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds left in the third to make the score 35-24.
The Tigers added a fourth-quarter field goal to cut the score to its final margin.