STARKVILLE, Miss. | Anthony Dixon rushed for 107 yards, De'Mon Glanton set up the game-clinching touchdown with an interception and Mississippi State handed No. 13 Vanderbilt its first loss, 17-14 on Saturday.
The Commodores (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) were looking to go 6-0 for the first time since 1928. Instead, the Bulldogs (2-4, 1-2) did to them what they've done to most of their opponents this season. Mississippi State played good defense — Vandy gained 107 yards — capitalized on mistakes by and gutted out a close victory.
For Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom, it was the fourth time in his five seasons he's led the Bulldogs to an upset of a ranked opponent.
It was like 2007 all over again for the Bulldogs, who made a habit of knocking off seemingly superior opponents during their breakthrough eight-win season with defense, opportunism and the occasional big play.
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The Mississippi State defense seemed impenetrable. The Commodores' only scores — a 1-foot dive by quarterback Chris Nickson and a 2-yard run by Jeff Jennings — were set up by Mississippi State penalties committed in the end zone.
The first, a facemask personal foul away from the play, gave Vanderbilt a 7-3 lead at halftime, despite three first downs and 64 total yards. The second, pass interference, let Vanderbilt pull to within three with enough time to pull off a comeback.
Vanderbilt had been living on the edge on the way to its best start in SEC play. The Commodores are near the bottom of most SEC statistical categories. But they led the nation in turnover margin and were second in interceptions coming into the game.
It didn't seem to matter that they were 116th of 119 teams in passing or that they had to come from behind in each of their previous wins. They were off to such a hot start, a win would've made them bowl eligible for the first time since 1982.
But it was a different story against the Bulldogs. In addition to their poor offensive performance, the Commodores committed season highs of 10 penalties for 65 yards. And their two turnovers tied a season high. Nickson's errant pass on the first play of the fourth quarter was picked off by Glanton and set up the Bulldogs with first-and-goal at the 7. Christian Ducre scored from 3 yards out three plays later for a 17-7 lead.
Nickson was replaced by Mackenzi Adams, who immediately led Vanderbilt on a scoring drive to cut the lead. But the Bulldogs shut the Commodores down on the next drive, finishing it off with a sack of Adams, and Karlin Brown's interception on the next drive ended Vanderbilt's threat.
Both teams were unable to move the ball in the first half, but Mississippi State handed Vanderbilt a 7-3 lead with a pair of mistakes late in the second quarter.
First Blake McAdams shanked a punt out of his own end zone for 16 yards, giving Vanderbilt first-and-10 at the 12. Then Jasper O'Quinn was called for a personal foul facemask in the end zone that gave Vanderbilt first-and-goal at the 1. Two plays later an offsides penalty put the Commodores 1 foot from the goal line.
Nickson took the snap and simply reached across his center for the score, wiping out what had been 29 minutes of inspired play by the defense.
Until that drive, the Bulldogs had held Vanderbilt to one first down and 44 yards of total offense.
The Bulldogs held Nickson to 3 of 10 passing for 15 yards and no runner had more than 15 yards in the loss.
Vanderbilt has never been ranked for four consecutive weeks. The Commodores might stay in the Top 25, despite the loss, but now they know how South Carolina, Auburn and Mississippi felt after losing to them.