Vols’ surge falls short in fourth to Mississippi State
By GRANT RAMEY | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
STARKVILLE, Miss. — Win the fourth quarter. Derek Dooley preaches it.
Tennessee couldn’t do it Saturday night at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville.
With momentum in hand behind a suddenly capable defense, Tennessee trailed 27-24 early in the final quarter when Devrin Young lost a fumble along the Tennessee sideline. No. 19 Mississippi State recovered and cashed in with a 1-yard LeDarius Perkins touchdown plunge, building the lead back to two possessions and ultimately putting the Vols away. in a 41-31 win
“Gave up a turnover, had a bad play,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooleysaid. “But still, with 5:22 to go we still had a game.
“They had a couple third down conversions, we miss a tackle, don’t cover a guy, and that’s the story line. It’s a tough loss. We’ve got to dust it off and move on. That’s all you can do, correct the mistakes and move on.”
The Vols (3-3, 0-3 SEC) had 361 total yards after a Jekyll and Hyde first and second half on both sides of the ball. State (6-0, 3-0) rolled up 442 total yards, including 293 in the first half.
“We’re not very good right now,” Dooley said of his defense. “ ... We didn’t give up a ton of big plays tonight, so it was kind of a different story line. We bled to death Just bled to death.”
Cordarrelle Patterson went for 195 total yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead Tennessee. Bray threw for 148 yards and two scores and the Vols combined to rush for 213 yards on 34 carries.
UT’s second-half defense adjusted after taking a gashing from the State offense the first 30 minutes — and the offense followed suit, finding tempo and finding points after intermission.
“To there credit,” Dooley said, “the team came out and had a great third quarter. We stopped them four (drives) in a row on defense. Had a chance to win. Now we’ve got to learn how to execute down the stretch.”
The second half adjustment started like it did all night for the Vols, behind the all-over-the-field production of Patterson.
Like he did in the first half when he returned a kickoff for a score, Patterson breathed life into the Vols with a 34-yard reverse, where he completely reversed field after looking to be stopped for a loss on the State sideline. Eight plays later Michael Palardy was good on a 38-yard field goal to cut the lead down to 27-17.
Unlike the first half, Tennessee’s defense then got off the field without more points on State’s side of the board.
The Vols offense stayed in sync, too, as Bray drove the Vols 86 yards in 15 plays before finding Patterson in the end zone again, this time on a 11-yard touchdown catch to make it a 27-24 game.
Bray found Ben Bartholomew for a 10-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter to make it 34-31. State added a touchdown with less than 10 seconds left to make it 41-31.
“They made some plays,” Prentiss Waggner said. “I thought we did a pretty good job in game prep, but we just didn’t get the stops.”
The State offense couldn’t miss a beat in the first half. Meanwhile, Tennessee’s defense couldn’t catch its breath.
The Bulldogs scored five times on it’s first five possessions en route to building a 27-14 lead midway through the second quarter. All that helped the Vols stop unit was a missed State field goal and a three-and-out just before the close of the half.
“We had some missed assignments and a few breakdowns here and there,” safety Byron Moore said. “We just have to clean some things up.”
The Tennessee defense cleaned up enough to bow its neck after an all-too-easy first drive for State, forcing the home team to settle for a 31-yard Devon Bell field goal and a 3-0 lead.
The Vols showed life in return, going 75 yards on 10 plays, capped by an extra effort 6 yard touchdown run by Rajion Neal.
State bookended a UT three-and-out with a pair of touchdowns, though, with the first on Josh Robinson’s 10-yard run for a 10-7 lead and again when Dak Prescott found a wide open Marcus Green for a 13-yard score and a 17-7 lead.
Patterson answered on the ensuing kickoff, taking it back 98 yards for a touchdown to make it a one-possession game again. But that was it for the Vols in the first half.
State followed Patterson’s return with another Bell field goal, from 24 yards out, for a 20-14 lead.
The Bulldogs didn’t kick to Patterson after the field goal. Instead they opted for a high, short pooch kick, catching the Vols off guard and jumping on the live ball to take back possession at Tennessee’s 33-yard line.
Four plays later State was back in the end zone, again on a Green touchdown reception, this time from quarterback Tyler Russell, for a 27-14 lead.
“You don’t really expect to have growing pains,” Moore said of the Vols’ second-straight loss and third in a row to start conference play. “You expect to play perfect, but it’s not a perfect world. It’s part of football.
“We have to go back and get ready for next week.”