Vols quieten Bulldogs with 35-17 win
By By Danny Smith / special to The Star
Nov. 17, 2002
STARKVILLE The record crowd at Mississippi State was warned again by the officials Saturday about the use of artificial noisemakers.
Southeastern Conference regulations prohibit the use of noisemakers such as cowbells at league sporting events.
By midway through the fourth quarter, the fans became frustrated and didn't have a reason to ring their cowbells anyway as the Bulldogs lost a 35-17 decision to the Tennessee Volunteers in front of the largest crowd in MSU history of 54,807 at Davis Wade Stadium.
After giving up only 5 yards passing for three quarters, the Bulldogs saw the Volunteers convert two big plays through the air in the fourth quarter.
A 56-yard screen pass from Tennessee quarterback James Banks to C.J. Fayton set up one touchdown, a 1-yard run by Jabari Davis. Then Banks hit tight end Jason Witten for a 29-yard score on the next possession.
Those plays enabled the Vols to extend a 21-17 lead to 35-17 over the Bulldogs.
The loss put the Bulldogs in a hole this season they won't be able to climb out of as they fell to 3-7 overall and 0-6 in the SEC. Mississippi State clinched its second straight losing season and will not play in a bowl game.
Tennessee became bowl eligible by improving its records to 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the conference.
For the Vols, it is a chance to make something positive out of an up and down season.
It was Moore's 9-yard return of a fumble by Bulldog quarterback Kevin Fant that put the Vols up 21-7 with 10:09 left in the third quarter.
Mississippi State was able to get back in the game when Justin Griffith crashed into the endzone on fourth down from 3 yards out at the 5:27 mark of the third quarter.
Griffith had a 56-yard burst at the end of the third quarter which led to a 53-yard field goal by Brent Smith to close the gap to 21-17.
It was the career-longest field goal for Smith and tied for second in school history.
After only attempting six pass attempts through three quarters, Banks dropped back for Tennessee and saw Fayton, who had slipped behind coverage.
Fayton was tackled 56 yards down the field by MSU's Jason Clark and that put the Vols in business at the 5-yard line of the Bulldogs. Two plays later, Davis scored with 10:55 left in the game.
The touchdown pass from Banks to Witten with 9:18 to play put the finishing touches on the outcome.
In the first half, the story was Tennessee tailback Cedric Houston.
After a scoreless first quarter, Houston ripped off touchdown runs of 34 yards and 10 yards in the second quarter as Tennessee took a 10-0 lead.
Mississippi State didn't stop Houston, who finished the game with a career-high 149 yards rushing on 32 carries for the Vols.
Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer is happy to get Houston back.
After Houston's early touchdowns, the Bulldogs were sparked by the defense to get their first points in the second quarter.
Clark forced a fumble by Houston that was recovered by Kamau Jackson at the UT 47-yard line.
Fant hit Terrell Grindle with a 33-yard pass play to the 10-yard line, then found tight end Donald Lee for the touchdown with 5:28 remaining in the first half.
That would be Fant's finest moment in the game as he completed 7-of-17 pass attempts for 97 yards. Backup Kyle York came in to complete 8-of-18 for 63 yards.
Sherrill said Fant will start next week's game at quarterback when Mississippi State hosts Arkansas.