Bulldogs ride big plays to Belk Bowl victory

Published 9:15 am Thursday, December 31, 2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Mississippi State did not want a repeat of last season, when it lost three of its final four games to close the year.

The Bulldogs ensured history wouldn’t repeat itself by rolling up 569 yards of offense in a 51-28 victory over N.C. State to win the Belk Bowl on Wednesday and finish 2015 with a 9-4 record.

“I’m proud of how we came out and executed in all three phases,” said MSU coach Dan Mullen. “We didn’t let the weather bother us or affect how we executed on offense. We made some big plays on defense creating some turnovers early in the game, which were huge.”

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Dak Prescott walked off the field a winner in his final collegiate game and also with some hardware in hand, as he was named the game’s most valuable player. Prescott completed 25 of 42 passes for 380 yards, four touchdowns and one interception while also leading the Bulldogs on the ground with 47 yards on a dozen carries.

“It was my last game, and it meant a lot to me personally to go out with a win,” Prescott said. “Especially after last year losing three of the last four. I wanted to make sure my last time wearing maroon and white people remember me as a winner.”

Fred Ross caught seven passes for 74 yards and a touchdown and also had a 33-yard rushing score, while De’Runnya Wilson hauled in five balls for 96 yards and a touchdown.

Things could not have started much better for the Bulldogs. Linebacker Gerri Green intercepted N.C. State’s Jacoby Brissett on the first play from scrimmage at the 26-yard line.

“That hurts to put your defense in that field position early in the game like we did,” said N.C. State coach Dave Doeren. “That was the opposite of what we were hoping for there.”

Five plays later, Mississippi State was in the end zone as Prescott connected with Ross on a screen pass for a 14-yard touchdown.

Another interception – this time by Brandon Bryant – would spark another Bulldog score. Prescott found Wilson wide open two plays later for a 28-yard touchdown to go up 14-0 by the end of the opening quarter.

That lead extended following a fourth down stop early in the second. Ross reeled off a 33-yard touchdown on a reverse.

“Their defense is real aggressive, and it was a great play call,” Ross said. “Those guys got flowing, and once I got the pitch all I had to do was score.”

N.C. State got back into the contest with back-to-back scores. Brissett found Pharoah McKever wide open for an 82-yard touchdown, then Jaylen Samuels turned a 4th-and-1 run into a 48-yard score to pull within 21-14.

But the Bulldogs answered with 10 points to end the first half. Prescott fumbled into the end zone and Justin Malone scooped up the ball for the score, and Westin Graves tacked on a 39-yard field goal to take a 31-14 lead into the locker room.

The Wolfpack struck first in the second half on a 3-yard keeper by Brissett, but MSU responded with three straight scores. Prescott hit Brandon Holloway out of the backfield for touchdowns of 10 and 55 yards, and Aeris Williams broke off a 33-yard scoring scamper.

N.C. State ended the scoring on a 1-yard run by Samuels with 45 seconds left.

The Wolfpack (7-6) finished with 424 yards, with Brissett completing 12 of 28 passes for 214 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

By Logan Lowery, Daily Journal