Rapid Reaction: Mississippi State crushes Abilene Christian
It was a methodical effort in a game that was never really in doubt. Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens ran and threw the Bulldogs to a 45-7 Homecoming victory over Southland Conference foe Abilene Christian on Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.
The Bulldogs (5-6) are now within one win of becoming bowl eligible as they look ahead to the regular season finale on Thursday with Ole Miss in the annual Egg Bowl. Abilene Christian finished the season 5-7.
The Wildcats threatened to make it a game with their first possession of the second half, but turned the ball over on downs at the Bulldogs’ 10-yard line. Mississippi State promptly drove 90 yards in 6 plays to effectively put the game out of reach. Stevens, who threw for 165 yards (13-for-27) and two touchdowns, ran 30 yards for the score and the Bulldogs led 28-7. Stevens finished with 88 yards rushing on 7 carries.
Kicker Jace Christmann added a field goal early in the fourth quarter and backup QB Garrett Shrader hit Austin Williams for a 6-yard TD to extend the lead to 38-7. Shrader’s 10-yard TD run capped the scoring for the Bulldogs.
But it took the Bulldogs a little time initially to get things going. Playing it conservatively against a perceived much inferior opponent, Bulldogs head coach Joe Moorhead elected to punt on fourth and long from the Wildcats’ 38- and 33-yard line on MSU’s first two possessions of the game. Tucker Day’s two punts and a stingy Bulldogs defense kept Abilene Christian pinned deep in its own territory.
The Bulldogs finally cashed in on their third possession with a 5-play, 35-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. Nick Gibson completed the drive with a 4-yard TD run.
The Bulldogs, who moved the ball almost at will on the ground mostly with SEC-leading rusher Kylin Hill, increased the lead to 21-0 on their next two possessions with a pair of Stevens touchdown passes. The first was an 11-yard scoring strike to Deddrick Thomas, then an 88-yard touchdown pass to Hill.
Stevens ran the RPO to perfection on the latter, faking the handoff then taking two steps towards the line of scrimmage before flipping a short pass to a wide open Hill, who raced to the end zone untouched.
Hill ran for 153 yards on 16 carries, surpassing 100 yards rushing for the seventh time this season and 11th time in his career, passing Dak Prescott and Don Smith on the Bulldogs’ all-time list.
The Wildcats got on the scoreboard before halftime on a well-designed 4-yard screen pass from QB Luke Anthony to RB Tracy James to slice the Bulldogs lead to 21-7.