NEW ORLEANS • In the first half, Mississippi State’s special teams were anything but special.
The Bulldogs missed a 27-yard field goal, had several short kickoffs and kickoff returns and also had a punt return bounce off the leg of Taury Dixon, which was recovered by Louisiana at the 15-yard line and led to a Ragin’ Cajuns’ first touchdown.
MSU coach Joe Moorhead had several choice words for his special teams units when they went to the locker room for halftime.
“Decorum prohibits me from repeating exactly what I said so I’ll paraphrase,” Moorhead said. “We got hit with the punt which turned it over and we missed a field goal. So I said that we needed to find a way to make a play on special teams. That was part of the challenge and they came out and we had Malik (Dear) with the long punt return and two punts pinned at the 1.
“We still have some substitution things to clean up but it was good to see the special teams units make a solid contribution in the second half.”
Scott Goodman started the second half by putting the opening kickoff in the end zone with a touchback. Goodman averaged 61.3 yards per kickoff in the second half after two kickoffs of 49 and 40 yards to close out the first.
“That was another part of the suggestion box for the second half,” Moorhead said. “I think we kicked and covered much better in the second half.”
In the fourth quarter, Dear returned a line drive punt 40 yards down to the 12-yard line that allowed Tommy Stevens to find Austin Williams in the end zone on the ensuing play.
The Bulldogs only had to punt twice – both in the fourth quarter – but both of Tucker Day’s efforts were downed at the 1-yard line.
“In a situation like that, it’s 50-50 whether the bounce goes your way or not,” Day said. “Half the ball will make it go one way and half the ball will make it go the other.
“I was fortunate that it smacked and went backwards and sideways.”
After missing an earlier kick, Jordan Lawless booted a clutch 37-yard field goal with 1:02 remaining to put the game out of reach. It was his first career field goal make at MSU.