CATEGORY: FOC College Football



By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE -- This deficit thing seems to be OK with Mississippi State.

As they have in three of their previous four wins this season, the Bulldogs found themselves behind in the second half.

Again State's defense made the big plays late, as the Bulldogs beat Central Florida 35-28 for their fifth win of the year.

State got little pressure on UCF quarterback Daunte Culpepper in the first half, using mostly a three-man rush.

Culpepper got 213 of his 359 passing yards in the first half, but threw interceptions on UCF's final two drives. He was sacked four times and hurried countless others.

"We probably blitzed 70 percent of the time in the second half," said MSU linebacker Barrin Simpson, one of the primary blitzers. "We wanted them to get tired so we would come through free."

Simpson had one of the four sacks and spent plenty of time in the UCF backfield in the second half.

Dereck Rush, the other linebacker, played the game of his life with 20 tackles, three for loss, and a half sack.

"I had set a goal to have double-digit tackles the rest of the year," Rush said. "Culpepper is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and we knew we were going to have to step it up."

Strong safety Eric Brown, playing his first full game in a month, had 14 tackles and a pass break-up.

He also stepped in front of a Culpepper pass in the game's final seconds. The interception -- with Greg Favors applying pressure -- allowed the Bulldogs to run out the clock.

"They did a good job of coming at us," said Culpepper, who passed for 359 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. "They were bringing the pressure, and that defense makes you throw the ball quick."

MSU coach Jackie Sherrill said an all-out blitz for four quarters probably would not have worked against Culpepper.

"At times we played a lot of three-man rush," he said. "A guy like that is going to get the ball to the receivers. We also covered the receivers better in the second half and were able to anticipate their routes."

Cornerback Izell McGill said the second-half pressure made it easier on the secondary.

"He's a good quarterback, and he makes good decisions. He was reading our coverages in the first half," McGill said. "But when we got the pressure on him, we (defensive backs) knew if we stayed with our coverage for three or four seconds, we could get to him and make him throw it away."

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