Knox, who was promoted following Monday’s firing of Zach Arnett, is in his second stint as MSU’s interim coach. He went 1-0 in the role after Dan Mullen’s departure in 2017 and kept his winning percentage at 1.000 on Saturday.
Mississippi State (5-6, 1-6 SEC) snapped a three-game skid with victory, ignited by the return of senior quarterback Will Rogers and senior running back Jo’Quavious Marks. Parlayed with a strong defensive outing, which was anchored by linebacker Nathaniel Watson, MSU left little doubt about the outcome despite Southern Miss (3-8, 2-5 Sun Belt) scoring on its opening drive.
MSU can secure a 14th consecutive bowl berth with a win against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl on Thursday in Starkville.
Will Rogers, Jo’Quavious Marks return for MSU
Mississippi State got two key pieces of its offense back Saturday with Rogers and Marks returning from injury. Rogers, who hadn’t played since he was injured late in an Oct. 7 win against Western Michigan, had been practicing throughout his recovery process, according to Arnett. However, Marks didn’t appear 100% in his return.
He appeared to re-injure his left ankle in the first half. After being slow to get up, Marks jogged off the field and later returned. Saturday marked his first game since an Oct. 21 win at Arkansas.
The benefit of having the two back was evident for the Bulldogs, highlighted by Rogers finding Marks for a 15-yard passing touchdown early in the third quarter to put MSU ahead by 16.
Nathaniel Watson makes case for Conerly Trophy
On Tuesday, the finalists were named for the Conerly Trophy, awarded annually to the best college football player in Mississippi. Watson was MSU’s nominee, and he made his case for the award against an in-state foe.
Watson finished with 21 tackles to go along with a strip-sack on the first play after an MSU touchdown in the second quarter. Watson’s nine sacks entering the game were top among SEC players and tied for 10th nationally.
Kyle Ferrie fuels Mississippi State’s offense early
Those interested in watching an explosive passing attack with Rogers back were instead treated to an early load of kicker Kyle Ferrie. In the first half, he connected on kicks of 48, 29 and 41 yards to go along with an extra point to account for 10 of MSU’s 16 points.
Ferrie has now connected on 16 of 19 (84.2%) field goal attempts.
Golden Eagles land first punch, get special teams help
Mississippi State fans got to see Rogers early with Southern Miss winning the coin toss and deferring. However, the opening offensive drive stalled near midfield with MSU failing to convert and fourth-and-2.
The Golden Eagles wasted no time delivering their punch. On the second play of the ensuing possession, quarterback Ethan Crawford found Jakarius Caston – who blew by freshman MSU corner Brice Pollock – for a 44 yard completion. USM followed that up with a trick play, though running back Frank Gore Jr’s pass was dropped on what would have been an easy touchdown.
Two plays after the failed trickery, Crawford found Gore out of the backfield for a walk-in touchdown. The Golden Eagles showed signs of playing with nothing to lose early, though the MSU defense asserted its dominance afterward.
However, things got interesting midway through the fourth quarter when Caston returned a kickoff 98 yards to make it a one-score game.
First appeared on www.clarionledger.com