Miss. St. falls 14-12 to No. 15 South Carolina
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen still believes he has a good
football team, even though the reality of a 0-4 Southeastern
Conference record was a stinging blow to the Bulldogs after a 14-12
loss to No. 15 South Carolina on Saturday.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw lofted a 4-yard touchdown
pass to Alshon Jeffery, who stretched his 6-foot-4 frame over two
Mississippi State defenders for the game-winning touchdown with
3:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.
When the three players jumped for the ball, Jeffery was simply
the tallest and best athlete, plucking the ball from the sky with
3:50 remaining to lead South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 SEC) to the
It was a bitter ending after it looked as if Mississippi State
(3-4, 0-4) might be able to pull off the upset. The Bulldogs never
trailed until Jeffery’s catch.
”We’re not that far off from where we want to be,” Mississippi
State coach Dan Mullen said. ”That final step is a tough
In his third career start, Shaw struggled for much of the
afternoon. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 155 yards, one
touchdown and two interceptions. He also rushed for 28 yards on 16
South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore came into the game averaging
an SEC-best 129.8 rushing yards per game, but managed only 39 yards
and a touchdown against the hard-hitting Bulldogs. He left the game
in the fourth quarter with an apparent leg injury that could make
the Gamecocks’ victory a lot less sweet.
Spurrier said he was told Lattimore’s injury is a sprained knee,
though a full evaluation hadn’t been done.
Mississippi State was driving late in the game, but Tyler
Russell’s pass was intercepted by D.J. Swearinger with 1:45
remaining. From that point, the Gamecocks were able to run out the
clock, and Shaw ran out the back of the end zone on the final play
for a Mississippi State safety.
”We needed to make one more play,” Mullen said. ”When you
play top-15 teams you’ve got to make a lot of plays. They made one
more play than we did.”
The low scoring was caused by a mix of dominating defense and
missed opportunities on offense.
South Carolina and Mississippi State started inexperienced
quarterbacks, and it showed for much of the afternoon.
The Gamecocks played their first game without senior Stephen
Garcia, whose suspension-riddled career ended abruptly after
Spurrier dismissed him from the team earlier in the week. Shaw
replaced Garcia last week before the dismissal, throwing four
touchdowns against Kentucky in a dominating win.
Mississippi State’s defense proved a much more difficult
challenge. The Bulldogs were especially good along the defensive
line, with Fletcher Cox making four tackles for a loss, including
The Gamecocks had chances to score in the first half, but Shaw
threw two interceptions, including one that was caught in the end
zone by Johnthan Banks and another that was caught right at the
goal line by Nickoe Whitley.
But Shaw came up big when it mattered, throwing the ball where
only Jeffery could catch it. The Gamecocks’ leading receiver had
been quiet up until that point and finished with five catches for
Jeffery’s catch came on a rare third down conversion. The
Gamecocks were just 2 of 14 before Jeffery’s touchdown catch
quieted the crowd at Davis Wade Stadium.
”We kept trying to run for those third downs,” Spurrier said.
”I guess we should have been passing on them.”
South Carolina has won six straight against the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen falls to 2-11 against ranked
teams in his three-year tenure.
MSU’s Russell earned his first start at quarterback, replacing
struggling senior Chris Relf. The sophomore threw a 19-yard
touchdown to Chris Smith late in the first quarter to give the
Bulldogs a 7-0 lead. He had some good moments, but struggled with
his accuracy against a swarming South Carolina defense, completing
11 of 29 passes for 165 yards, one touchdown and two
He led the Bulldogs down the field late in the fourth quarter,
but his pass was picked off by Swearinger, a safety who flew across
the field. Swearinger led South Carolina with 12 tackles.
Mississippi State outgained South Carolina 296-289. Vick Ballard
rushed for 67 yards on 20 carries. LaDarius Perkins added 46
rushing yards on nine carries.
”I did not play well enough today,” Russell said. ”Sometimes
I made the play and sometimes I did not.”
Follow David Brandt at: twitter.com/davidbrandtAP