Bulldogs Roll Up Raiders 27-6

Leave it to Anthony Dixon to make his marks in fine style. Needing just seven more yards to set the Mississippi State standard for career rushing, the senior halfback burned off a 57-yard dash that scored both a touchdown and the record while pushing his team toward a 27-6 victory at Middle Tennessee.

Dixon had begun the day 49 yards from topping the record of 3,212 career rushing yards set by Jerious Norwood in 2002-25. He ended the first quarter with just 28 yards and had 11 more when the Bulldogs got the ball after Middle Tennessee's first points of the afternoon made the score 10-3. Three snaps later the senior Bulldog back was standing in the end zone after his milestone moment. Dixon would end his day with another touchdown, on a one-yard leap of the line, that provided the final margin of MSU victory.

Dixon not only moved the career-rushing record to 3,299 yards, and increasing his own program touchdowns record to 37 rushing/41 overall, he extended his streak of 100-yard games to five this season. And, broke the tie with Norwood of 13 100-yard efforts in a career.

Yet despite setting the standard he wanted most, Dixon and team were happier to get a road win and leave Jones Field 3-4. Middle Tennessee (3-3) had really hoped to make the first-ever visit of a SEC program to Murfreesboro an occasion to remember. But everything conspired against the Blue Raiders, such as the combination of fall campus break and damp, cold conditions that kept the crowd down to 23,882. Then there was the week-old arrest that resulted in a one-quarter suspension of star quarterback and team offensive leader Dwight Dasher.

And finally of course was an uncooperative Mississippi State squad that might not have been at its overall best but was more than good enough to take care of this inter-conference contest. Especially as, after losing the ball 13 times in their three-loss streak, the Bulldogs did not commit a single turnover. They did fumble it twice but recovered each time.

Mississippi State won the toss and deferred, but Derek DePasquale's kickoff was short and out of bounds so the Blue Raiders got to open at their 40-yard line. And go nowhere as quarterback Brent Burnette, starting for the temporarily-benched Dasher, couldn't move. The punt was also hit badly and netted just 21 yards. Starting from their 39, the Bulldogs got a first down on a completed throw to TE Marcus Green that was compounded with 15 more yards for a personal foul. The Raider 36 was as far as the first turn got and with it too far to try a field goal P Heath Hutchins tried an angled kick. He did well but downfield coverage let it bounce right to the pylon for an automatic touchback.

On 3rd-and-12 NT Devin Jones came up the middle for a sack back at the 9-yard line. A rugby-punt only covered 31 net yards so State was starting at the MT 40-yard line. But they didn't use the chance even after RB Anthony Dixon got a quick seven-yard gainer. The Dogs for the first time tried a direct-snap play with WR Chad Bumphis taking the hike, and losing two yards. This time three Dogs surrounded Hutchins' angled-right punt and it was downed just inside the five.

A couple of completions netted MT their initial first down out to the 16, before the Raiders had to punt again with Berry fielding the short high kick and getting it to the 44 going in. And the Bulldogs were soon indeed going in. Dixon set the Raiders up with a five-yard blast on first down; on second, with triple-receiver set far to the right and Dixon running left, a huge gap opened for QB Tyson Lee to take it all the remaining 39 yards for the touchdown at 6:24.

Middle Tennessee's kickoff return was hammered at the 25 and set back more by a holding penalty, pinning the ball on their 14. They didn't stay there lone. A Gee sweep-right sucked everyone in and let Garrett Andrews slip loose down the sideline behind FS Charles Mitchell for a 29-yard gain. MT hurried before State could set up and Burnett hit Andrew Banks for another first down at State's 41-yrd line. The Dog defense stopped things there and forcing another short punt.

State, more specifically Dixon, muscled for a pair of first downs out to the 46. On fourth down Coach Dan Mullen used a timeout to stop the clock and let Hutchins punt with the wind. But the Raider rush knocked Hutchins about after getting the kick off for a free first down as the quarters changed. As well as an untimed down that Lee used to hit RB Arnil Stallworth over the middle for 19 yards.

This had MSU on Middle's 20 when the second quarter officially began, and Dixon made it first-and-goal at the eight with a short catch and two totes. With third-and-goal at the seven Stallworth was stuffed so DePasquale chipped his 24-yard field goal through at 11:42 for the 10-0 lead.

Gee returned the kickoff to the 37 and Dasher took over at quarterback, having served a one-quarter suspension. He made an instant difference with a fast-paced surge all the way to the Bulldog goal line. Dasher converted a pair of third downs with slick throws to McClover, including the reception at State's one-yard line for first down. The quarterback ran it himself three-straight times for no net gain, and though the offense wanted to try again MT's staff opted for a 18-yard field goal by Alan Gendreau at 7:10 to make it a 10-3 margin.

A return-reverse of Berry-to-Elliot got out to the 30-yard line and on second down Lee hit WR O'Neal Wilder for ten yards. The handoff to Dixon looked routine enough but turned into a 57-yard dash up the middle that not only made the goal line with two Raiders hanging on; it made the senior back State's all-time rushing champion in style.

That wind was now turned against State and DePasquale's high kickoff was fair-caught at the 45-yard line, great starting position. Which MT did nothing with, punting on 4th-and-8. And it was the Raiders' turn to mis-play coverage and let a great punt roll into the end zone. But the Bulldogs went backwards with a couple of poor snaps resulting in losses of eight yards, so Hutchins had to line up a step deep in the end zone. He too tried a rugby-roll punt and barely got it off, but the roll worked well enough to cross midfield at 2:23.

Dasher immediately cut the field in half with a 25-yard strike to Harold Turner, then out-ran MSU pressure long enough for Shane Blissard to come open on the right sideline down at the nine-yard line. Two of his three throws into the end zone for McGlover over on the far-left side were just a bit long and facing 4th-and-7 again the Raiders kicked with Gendreau connecting on a 24-yarder at 0:39. That left the halftime score favoring State 17-6.

A short Berry return started State on their 19, and Lee had to call-keeper on 3rd-and-6 to move the chains the first time. He had plenty time to throw to Bumphis (14 yards) and Wilder (10), and on 4th-and-inches at the MT tried…with a slow-developing handoff that Dixon lost a foot on. The Raiders soon punted it back as LB Chris White nailed Gee for loss of eight and McGlover dropped a third-down strike at the 40 that would have preserved possession.

Lee overcame 2nd-and-14 with a five-yard scramble and strike to WR Brandon McCrae at the MT 41. Play-action froze coverage so Stallworth could catch Lee's 20-yard gainer. A false start led to 3rd-and-15 and Lee escaped up the middle down to the Raider 14. DePasquale's attempt was delayed, literally on a flag, but he was good from 36 yards at 3:37 for a 20-6 margin.

After a fine 15-yard throw to Sancho McDonald at the marker, Dasher tried consecutive deep strikes to opposite sidelines. Both were well-covered, particularly first-time starter CB Corey Broomfield on a heave to the State 25. The punt carried farther than that for a fair-catch at the 20. Disaster nearly struck when forced to run on 3rd-and-14 Lee had the ball jarred loose, but he fell on it and Hutchins hit it well into the wind for a fair catch.

Dasher rushed three-straight times for 19 yards and spot the Raiders on State's 47 as the quarters turned. He went to the air in the fourth period, first for 11 yards and then what looked like a 36-yard touchdown…except McGlover was assessed for offensive interference with CB Maurice Langston at the goal line. Pushed all the way back to their 49, Dixon tried going down the right sideline and into double-coverage with Broomfield picking it off at the 27.

State couldn't use the turnover and with the wind Hutchins got good distance and a better roll to the nine-yard line…or thought he had until an official ruled the kick had touched a teammate. Mullen's challenge cost a timeout the Dogs fortunately didn't need. For that matter the missed call didn't hurt either as after one move of chains Dasher threw into the left flat and right into Broomfield's surprised hands well before the intended Raider receiver behind had even turned around.

This time the Dogs only used 97 ticks before punting. But Dasher did not change his ways either, though he did get official help in the form of an interference call on Broomfield. No matter, because the next toss was also picked off by Banks at State's 37-yard line. This time the Bulldogs strung together some first downs and ate up 4:38, not giving the Raiders the ball back until 5:08 and at their ten-yard line.

Middle Tennessee changed quarterbacks again, not allowing Dasher the chance to throw more turnovers. But it wasn't a really smart call either when on first down at the 24 wideout McDonald took a lateral-left throw from Burnette and lofted his own long toss. Into the wind, that is, which held the ball up far too short of an open Andrews. Instead Banks got to the ball for his own second interception, at the MSU 25 and with enough room to get back to the Raider 25.

It was the perfect chance to put this game away for Bulldog-good and the senior backfield delivered. On second down Stallworth turned a quick flip into a 21-yard gainer that saw him ruled out just in front of the right pylon. But then this merely set up Dixon to punctuate his record day with another touchdown; not only did he clear the whole line with a vault at center, he rolled off two Raiders and landed on both feet at 3:25 for the final margin of victory.

Dixon had 135 net rushing yards on 27 tries with the two TDs. Lee ran for 38 himself, though he had 67 in gains and 29 more in losses, sacks, or falling on a fumble. He did complete 14 of his 20 passes for 155 yards without a pick and mixed the ball well among various types of targets Stallworth and Bumphis both had four catches for 71 and 32 yards.

Dasher finished with 47 rushing yards after his team got away from running, but was just 11-of-22 throwing for 129 yards with the three picks. State out-gained the Raiders 333 yards to 248.

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