NEW ORLEANS • Mississippi State started the season without seven players who were suspended for a violation of team rules.
Wide receiver Devonta Jason, offensive linemen Kwatrivous Johnson and Michael Story, defensive tackle Lee Autry, linebacker Willie Gay Jr., safety Marcus Murphy and kicker Jace Christmann did not make the trip to the Big Easy. Autry, Gay and Christmann were listed as starters or co-starters on the depth chart.
MSU is not permitted to identify which players are involved in the academic misconduct involving a former part-time tutor.
A total of 10 players appeared on the field for the Bulldogs for the first time on Saturday. Quarterback Tommy Stevens, wide receivers JaVonta Payton and Isaiah Zuber, offensive lineman LaQuinston Sharp, safeties Aadreekis Conner and Fred Peters and long snapper Paul Blackwell debuted as upperclassmen.
Additionally, true freshmen defensive backs Martin Emerson Jr., Jarrian Jones and Collin Duncan saw action in their first career contest.
Eight players also made their first career starts on Saturday, including Stevens, wide receiver Cameron Gardner, offensive linemen Dareuan Parker and Tyre Phillips, defensive linemen Marquiss Spencer, Fabien Lovett Chauncey Rivers and Jaden Crumedy.
With MSU leading 28-14 midway through the third quarter, Louisiana’s offense marched 75 yards on eight plays and appeared to be knocking at the door at the 12-yard line.
However, Spencer stripped Ragin’ Cajun running back Trey Ragas of the ball and Cameron Dantzler alertly fell on it to keep the Bulldogs’ advantage where it was.
KEY NUMBER: 5
State’s defense forced five turnovers, including an interception by Dantzler on Louisiana’s first play of the game.
Dantzler later recovered a fumble as did Erroll Thompson and Brian Cole II. Maurice Smitherman picked off the final play of the game as well.
“It wasn’t a pretty defensive game for us. We got (five) turnovers but we’ve still got room for improvement. We’ve got to become better tacklers and that’s something we’ll work on during the week. We’ve just got to get better from here and put this game past us.” – Dantzler
The Bulldogs have their home opener against Southern Miss on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
Saturday’s game marked the start of MSU’s 120th season of football. ... Joe Moorhead is now 6-0 in season openers as a head coach. ... The Bulldogs have recorded a turnover in 17-straight games and have had a sack in 23-consecutive contests. ... Thompson led the team with 10 tackles.