College Football: Mississippi State 17, Vanderbilt 14
STARKVILLE, Miss. ó A late rally fueled by turnovers and defense ó sounds like yet another win for No. 13 Vanderbilt. Not so fast.
Mississippi State handed the Commodores their first loss of the season, derailing the feel-good story of the year with a pair of second-half interceptions and smothering defense in a 17-14 victory on Saturday.
“All the things we were doing when we won five games, we didn’t do a very good job with today,” Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said. “That’s just the difference between winning and losing, especially when we take on teams with a lot of talent like Mississippi State.”
Vanderbilt’s amazing run to start the season was sort of a case of identity theft. The Commodores (5-1, 3-1 SEC) have been using the same formula the Bulldogs (2-4, 1-2) mined for a breakthrough eight-win season last year. That earned the Bulldogs a trip to the Liberty Bowl and Sylvester Croom SEC coach of the year honors.
It was like 2007 all over again for the Bulldogs, who made a habit of knocking off seemingly superior opponents with defense, opportunism and the occasional big play.
“Somewhere along the way we forgot who we were,” Croom said. “Now we remember. We’ve got our identity back.”
Vanderbilt, the fourth ranked team to fall to the Bulldogs under Croom, was looking to go 6-0 for the first time since 1928. The Commodores led the nation in turnover margin, were second in interceptions and had outscored opponents 58-10 in the second half.
This time, though, it was the Bulldogs who held all the key advantages. They rallied from a 7-3 halftime deficit.