Mississippi State Win Big for Tech

First win against an SEC team since 1999. Derek Dooley can't deny the significance of Louisiana Tech's 22-14 victory last week over Mississippi State, even as he sorts through what his second-year squad still must improve upon.

"I would be lying if I said it was no big deal; it's a great win," said Dooley, who travels to play No. 14 Kansas this Saturday. "But I'm also cautious because we have 11 more. If you go 1-11, this win means nothing. The key is turning this win into a positive. Keep working hard, keep improving."

Mississippi State held a 14-9 lead at halftime, but there had already been a dramatic change in momentum before the Band of Pride took the field at Joe Aillet before more than 25,000 fans.

The first half ended with an inside-the-five punt from Chris Keagle, a gritty defensive stand and then a 33-yard punt return by Phillip Livas that led to Taylor Bennett's clutch touchdown strike to Patrick Jackson.

"It was as dominating a special teams performance as I have ever been a part of, a classic defense and special teams game," Dooley said. "We had five punts inside the 20, with the biggest one being on the one right before the half. Here we were at 14-3, probably everybody in the stands is thinking they are going to pull away. The defense goes out there and almost gets a safety. They go three and out, which is big.

Then the offense scores all of sudden."

Louisiana Tech pitched a shut out from there, creating three Mississippi State turnovers in the third quarter alone. In all, Sylvester Croom's Bulldogs gave the ball away five times, including a pair of fumbled kick returns -- one of which resulted in Brad Oestriecher's game-winning 50-yard field goal.

Oestriecher also hit from 48 yards out to give Tech its first points of the night, and added 28-yarder (after Deon Young's pick) to give Dooley's squad a 19-14 lead.

"The three field goals," he added, "were just money."

Dooley, however, is sobered by notable glitches along the way. Bennett, who transferred in the offseason from Georgia Tech, sometimes struggled with consistency.

"He missed a lot of throws out there; he was getting hit a lot too," Dooley said. "They knocked him down -- and I don't know care who you are, you get effected. We have to do a better job of protection. He had some drops, five or six of them. Combine that with a few errors, and that's what you get. I'll tell you one thing, I'm not as concerned as I was last year. I think we are going to get better as season goes on."

In part, because Dooley holds lingering respect for Mississippi State's defense, which held eight teams to under 17 points last season.

"These guys were good," he added.

What impressed Dooley most of all, he said, was how his team responded to moments of adversity. Oestriecher missed an extra point, but never lost confidence. There was a muffed punt, a halfback pass that was intercepted, some defensive misfires.

"When bad things happen, they don't get phased," Dooley said. "That was one of the first times I saw that happen. I saw it last year, but they were in games where the kids thought we should win. Not where they thought we were underdogs. When we got behind 14-3, it really tests your meddle as a competitor. That's when you see what people are made of. You develop a little resiliency. Our players were very aware of the situation; there was no panic. That's what I loved about that game."

LOUISIANA TECH AT KANSAS

6 p.m. Saturday

Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kan.

TV: FSN. Radio: KXKZ, 107.5 FM

Streaming: z1075fm.com

Gametracker: latechsports.com

Notes: Kansas was one of the biggest surprises in college football last season, going 12-1 and defeating Virginia Tech 24-21 in the Orange Bowl. … Tech's 1999 SEC victory was over an upset over Top-20 ranked Alabama. … Kansas -- a 20.5 point spread favorite -- has won its last give home games against non-BCS conference teams by an average score of 51-7, going 14-0 over the last five years. … These two have not played since a 34-14 Kansas victory on Sept. 17, 2005. Louisiana Tech won the only other meeting in 1987.


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