Rapid Reaction: Mississippi State defense smothers N.C. State in dominating victory
Mississippi State needed a while to get its offense on track against N.C. State, but the defense was there throughout, and kept the Wolfpack in check and then some.
QB Will Rogers shook off a sluggish start to help the State offense convert just enough as the defense held the line. Stopping the run was obviously a priority for the Bulldogs as they were aware that N.C. State rushed for 293 yards last week, but had just 18 carries for 54 yards through 3 quarters, and 194 yards total. The Wolfpack had a pair of 100-yard rushers last week.
That defense carried the Bulldogs to a 24-10 victory.
The Wolfpack added a late score with 1:06 remaining, and then recovered the ensuing onside kick, but it was far too little, too late.
Overall, MSU turned in 3 sacks, and 6 tackles for a loss for a dominating performance.
On offense, after punts on the first 3 drives, and then a turnover on downs, the Bulldogs bounced back with points on 3 of their next 5 drives.
In the second half, Zonovan Knight fumbled near midfield early in the third quarter, and State responded with a scoring strike from Will Rogers to Jaden Walley to cap a seven-play, 54-yard drive. It was the second turnover the State defense, both by Jalen Green, which bottled up the Wolfpack much of the night. They added a late interception on fourth down by the Wolfpack.
Mississippi State struggled to find a rhythm on offense on Saturday in the first half against N.C. State. Thankfully for the Bulldogs, they got a 100-yard kickoff return from Lideatrick Griffin to open the game.
— Sideline CFB (@SidelineCFB) September 11, 2021
That will help pad the kick return stats that already led the SEC in entering Week 2, as the Bulldogs averaged 36 yards per return, which was seventh in the FBS.
Thanks to that impressive return, the Bulldogs didn’t need to worry about a repeat of last week’s game, which featured their largest comeback victory in program history after erasing a 20-point deficit against Louisiana Tech in the season opener.
The Bulldogs’ first 3 drives only went 3 plays each, and then a 10-play drive ended on downs early in the second quarter. But Will Rogers extended a late first-half drive with a fourth down conversion to Makai Polk as they marched into field goal range.
Despite the offensive struggles, the Bulldogs kept up their red zone prowess, as they were 2-for-2 in that area, a week after State was one of 11 teams in the FBS with a 100 percent mark in the red zone this season. The Bulldogs came into Week 2 leading the SEC with 5 red zone touchdowns.
Whatever fan frustration there was in the first half, Rogers quieted it with a 21-yard pass to Malik Heath with 1:09 remaining to give the Bulldogs a 14-3 lead. That capped a 13-play, 83-yard scoring drive.
The MSU defense, though, was stellar in the first half, as the Wolfpack was held to 39 rushing yards and 91 passing yards and just 2-for-9 on third down conversions.
Mississippi State returns to action next week at Memphis in a 4 p.m. ET game on ESPN2.