October 25, 2008

Dixon sets pace in homecoming win

STARKVILLE, Miss., - Anthony Dixon churned out 126 yards and a career high three touchdowns to help the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a 31-22 homecoming win over Middle Tennessee in front of 40,024 at Davis Wade Stadium.
Dixon also set some other career milestones along the way breaking the all-time school record with 29 career touchdowns and has now carried the ball 596 times, more than any other Bulldog back.

"He is important every game but I was particularly pleased today," said MSU head coach Sylvester Croom. "He did a good job outrunning their defense but he is still slow, but just slow enough to get into the end zone."

The MSU offense racked up 366 total yards with 197 passing and 169 rushing on the evening.

"We went out and executed and made some adjustments in the second half," Croom said. "We moved the ball offensively the whole game except for the second quarter."

Tyson Lee completed 17-of-25 passing for 197 yards and also rushed seven times for 46 yards and a touchdown.

"I think we executed well at the beginning," Lee said. "As the game went on, we kind of slacked off. But toward the end of the game we stepped it up. We made some big plays when we needed to."

Arnil Stallworth led the Bulldog receiving corps with four catches out of the backfield for 60 yards.

"We found more plays where fullbacks can go out in the flats and run some screens," Stallworth said. "That's what they mostly utilized me at. I'm kind of good running screens. They found more plays for me and opened up the playbook a little more which opened up the passing game."

Aubrey Bell also had four grabs for 29 yards.

After several impressive first drives the past few games, Mississippi State finally put one into the end zone. The Bulldogs took the opening possession 80-yards in eight plays, crossing the goal line on a 4-yard scamper by Dixon. Adams Carlson added the extra point for the early 7-0 lead.

But the Blue Raiders countered with points of their own on their first drive. Alan Gendreau kicked a 30-yard field goal pulling the score to 7-3.

MSU fired right back when Dixon broke loose on a 62-yard touchdown run, blowing past defenders on his way for his record setting score.

"I didn't think they was going to get me," Dixon said. "But I got caught the last time so I wasn't feeling that this time. I was going to swerve on and do whatever I had to do to get to the end zone."

Carlson booted the point after for a 14-3 lead with 6:13 to go in the first quarter.

The game would remain that way until early on in the second quarter when Gendreau drilled an 18-yard field getting the Blue Raiders within 14-6.

Middle Tennessee finally found their way into the end zone midway through the second quarter after a 55-yard hook-up between Joe Craddock and Eldred King. The long pass play put the Blue Raiders in the red zone and the duo connected again for a 14-yard touchdown before the half. Gendreau added the PAT bringing the score to 14-13.

Middle Tennessee claimed the lead for the first time on the opening drive of the second half. The Blue Raiders went 67-yards in 14 plays before Gendreau nailed a 23-yard attempt to lift his team ahead 16-14.

But the momentum would not last long as Mississippi State answered with another touchdown on the ensuing possession. The Bulldogs orchestrated a 12-play, 69-yard drive picking up three first downs including a 4th-and-inches conversion. The drive was finished up by a 5-yard run by Lee. Carlson put the point after through and retaking a 21-16 advantage with 4:30 remaining in the third.

MSU extended their lead on their first possession of the final quarter. The Bulldogs went 61-yards in 11-plays including a 24-yard third down reception by Jamayel Smith to keep the drive alive. Dixon plowed his way into the end zone for the third time from a yard out four plays later. Carlson converted the extra point pushing the score to 31-16.

Middle Tennessee made one final push on their next drive to cross the goal line. The Blue Raiders chewed up 76-yards running 16 plays paying off when Phillip Tanner trotted in from a yard away. Middle Tennessee attempted a two point conversion by Craddock's pass was incomplete.

Middle Tennessee finished the night with 348 total yards on offense with 268 yards through the air and 80 yards on the ground.

"I talked to the team at halftime about when you play an SEC team like that you can't settle for field goals," said MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill. "Not many people have scored on them this season. They have a good defense. I think it was more of them than it was us settling for field goals."

Craddock completed 23-of-40 passing for 235 yards and a touchdown to lead the Blue Raiders.

"As a senior, I know and understand the offense," Craddock said. "They help give me the ball to the playmakers so they can go and make plays.

Craddock's favorite playmaker was King, who finished with 11 catches for 164 yards and a score.

"I am not happy we lost," King said. "I have been trying to get a breakout game. I played my hardest but overall a loss is a loss."

Tanner was the leading rusher with eight carries for 29 yards and a touchdown.

Marcus Washington and Jasper O'Quinn led the Bulldog defense with nine tackles each. Washington added a tackle for a loss while O'Quinn was credited with 0.5 stop behind the line. Dominic Douglas finished with eight tackles.

Ivon Hickmon and Kevin Brown combined to make six stops each for Middle Tennessee. One of Hickmon's tackles was for a loss.

The Bulldogs keep their bowl chances alive with the win to improve to 3-5 while Middle Tennessee drops to 2-6. Mississippi State will host Kentucky on Saturday while the Blue Raiders will be off.


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