Mississippi State never trails Wolfpack after 100-yard opening kick return
Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 12, 2021
By THEO DEROSA
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Lideatrick Griffin returned the opening kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown, and Mississippi State’s defense took it from there in a 24-10 win over North Carolina State on Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.
The Bulldogs (2-0) held the Wolfpack (1-1) to 4.5 yards per play — with most of the damage coming in garbage time — and never trailed after Griffin’s kick return gave them a 7-0 lead 13 seconds into the contest. Quarterback Will Rogers was 33 of 49 passing for 294 yards and two touchdowns for Mississippi State, and Malik Heath and Jaden Walley each caught scoring passes.
Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Zach Arnett’s unit cracked down on a powerful NC State offense. Running backs Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person were held to 50 yards on 16 carries, while quarterback Devin Leary went 30-of-49 passing for 303 yards.
NC State scored its only touchdown with 1:06 left in the game on a 4-yard pass from Leary to Thayer Thomas.
Mississippi State went up 14-3 on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Rogers to Heath with 1:09 before halftime. Rogers found Walley for a 4-yard score in the third quarter.
The Wolfpack missed a chance for a tying touchdown in the first quarter when Person’s jump pass was intercepted in the end zone by Bulldogs safety Jalen Green.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs got little pressure on quarterback Austin Kendall in last week’s 35-34 win over Louisiana Tech, forcing just one sack thanks to an intentional grounding penalty. Mississippi State’s pass rush was far more successful Saturday, sacking Leary five times and forcing hurries and missed throws all night.
NC State: Nine days after scoring 45 points in a shutout of South Florida, the Wolfpack were held to a 45-yard Christopher Dunn field goal in the second quarter and Thomas’ late touchdown. Person’s interception and a third-quarter fumble by Knight cost NC State chances to cut into Mississippi State’s advantage.
Mississippi State will go on the road for the first time in 2021 to play Memphis Saturday.
NC State will host Furman on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
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