On their first two drives of the game MSU ran 28 plays but scored just 3 points.
In the meantime, Ole Miss took advantage of a poor punting night by MSU punter Jared Cook and poor punt coverage to put themselves in excellent field position two different times. On one drive, after one of the punt returns, Ole Miss scored on a 28-yard touchdown pass to Chris Collins.
MSU had a chance to go ahead of Ole Miss early in the second half after Justin Griffith ran the ball down to the Ole Miss 5, but a five-yard penalty caused the play to be nullified and moved the Bulldogs back to the Ole Miss 17-yard line. After a sack of Fant by the small but quick Ole Miss defense, Ole Miss intercepted the ball on the next play to end the drive for the Bulldogs.
Ole Miss, on their ensuing drive, took advantage of freshmen cornerback Kevin Dockery by scoring on a 77-yard touchdown to the speedy Chris Collins, his second touchdown of the night.
That play put Ole Miss up 14-3.
MSU, showing that they weren't going to quit, came right back and scored on Brent Smith's 9th straight field goal to make the score 14-6.
After both teams scored to make it 17-12, MSU's Kevin Fant threw an interception on the MSU 15 which was returned by the Rebels to the MSU 5-yard line. Ole Miss then iced the game on a Manning touchdown pass.
MSU had a couple of more chances but one ended in the Bulldogs turning the ball over on downs and the other one ended with an interception after the Bulldogs had gotten down to the Rebels 19-yard line.
MSU, for the second straight year winners of just 3 games, will stay home for the holidays. The Ole Miss Rebels, despite a 6-6 record and losers of five of their last six games, look to be headed to the last SEC tie-in bowl.
MSU coach Jackie Sherrill:
This was a game where you certainly had your chances. Your team played well and played hard until the end. It just didn't happen for you tonight.
"The first half we held the ball and moved the ball down the field. The first time we had the ball we ran 15 plays and couldn't get any points. The second time we had it for 13 plays and only got (a field goal). Out of 28 plays, you've got to score points.
"We also had the two punts that they returned. On those two punts we gave them field position. We still overcame that. We came out in the third quarter and held them the first series. We took the ball down the field in 10 plays and threw an interception where we could have scored a field goal or (a touchdown)." (MSU started at the OM42 after a Kevin Dockery interception and drove down to the OM18 where Fant threw an interception.-Gene).
"On their next possession they came back on third and one (and scored a touchdown against freshmen cornerback Kevin Dockery). (Dockery) pressed where he shouldn't have pressed. That is something that you don't do. Even though we were playing man, you don't go up there and press and give them the whole field. And that was what we did. That's something that (Dockery) will learn.
"What really hurt us when we were still in the game, we get the three fouls (Two pass interference calls.-Gene) that gave them the opportunity to move the ball down the field. You need to understand in a game like this sometimes the calls won't go with you. I've been reprimanded once so I can't what I want to say. I can say this, there were a couple of things that happened out that that (SEC officials head) Bobby and the (SEC) Commissioner are going to have to give me an answer for. (Coach Sherrill may have been referring to the refs calling a pass interference call against MSU that was questionable and missing a pass interference on an Ole Miss defensive back who pushed off Bivines on what would have been a touchdown reception to make the score 24 to 18 prior to the extra point attempt.-Gene)."
Why did you continue to kick in the direction of Armstead when they continued to get such good field position after the returns?
"The two you are referring to were just poor punts. We didn't cover like we should have. On one of them our gunner didn't come down. On the other one, our inside people didn't cover. When we tried to kick away from him, we had the bad kick at the end of the game."
There are a lot of rumors out there about whether you will be back next season. Will you be back next season?
"I am a person who when you put a knot on my head, I will remember it and pay it back. Like I said years ago, get your licks in when you can because you are not going to have that opportunity very long. We have a very young group, a very exciting group, coming back. We will make the changes that we need to make to correct it and move on. Everyday in life is not a great day. These are (tough) times but we are not going to stay there. What I said when I first came here was Mississippi State deserves to win, they can win and they will win. What I'm saying now is the same thing. The determination of all of us should be stronger than ever before because we have had the opportunity and we understand what it takes to get there and we understand the rewards when you get (to the SEC Championship Game)."
This team got better as the season progressed.
"Yes, and we will get better. There are a lot of bright sides (to this team)."
DOG safety Michael Gholar:
You have to be proud of what you have accomplished.
"Yeah, I'm pretty proud of coming off the basketball court onto the football field. It was a rough year for us in football, but I really enjoyed the guys and the coaches. I just hope and pray that they do better next year."
Talk about making position adjustments throughout the year.
"I started my first game against South Carolina. I started at free safety and had 9, 10 or 11 tackles. And the coaches liked the way I was coming up and tackling and moved me to DOG (safety). And I thought I would be a pretty good DOG (safety) on this defense."
You've had six years as a Bulldog, so you have to be seeped in Maroon and White pretty well.
"I love it man. I would die for the Bulldogs. I will be down there screaming and jumping around on the sidelines telling everybody that we are still in the game. It is Maroon and White for me, and I will be big time Bulldog fan until I die. I love it."
You had a great (quarterback) pressure against Manning that forced him to throw the interception. You were getting held on the play but you were still able to put the good pressure on him.
"When I blitz a lot of teams have gotten to where they hold me up a lot. Like you said, they were holding me and he clipped me from the back after I got past him. That's how the game is. Sometimes the referees don't see everything on the field. All we can do is hope that they see it and make a call."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial website for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at email@example.com