Mississippi State (4-7) brought 2020 to a close with a victory on Thursday as the Bulldogs edged No. 24 Tulsa (6-3) 28-26 in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium. State improved to 14-10 all-time in bowl games while Tulsa fell to 10-12.
The game started in exciting fashion as MSU’s freshman Lideatrick Griffin returned the opening kickoff 53 yards to the Tulsa 39-yard line. Just three plays later, Jo’quavious Marks darted into the end zone for a 28-yard rushing touchdown and State led 7-0 just 1:19 into the contest.
But the remainder of the first half took a turn very much to the defensive side of the ball, as MSU did not score again and the Golden Hurricane managed only a pair of fields goals. The Bulldogs led 7-6 at the intermission.
In the second half, both teams’ offenses seemed to get back on track.
After forcing a three-and-out on Tulsa’s first drive of the third quarter, State marched 64 yards on nine plays for a touchdown. Quarterback Will Rogers capped the drive with a 13-yard scoring rush. Tulsa answered with a 7-play, 75-yard drive, Derenic Prince scampering in from 14 yards out as the Golden Hurricane cut the State lead back to one at 14-13.
Tulsa would force a turnover on downs on MSU’s next drive, but the Bulldogs would return the favor on the ensuing drive when Emmanuel Forbes picked off TU quarterback Zach Smith and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown. State led 21-13 with 3:29 remaining in the third period.
After an MSU punt attempt went awry and left the Golden Hurricane with excellent field position, Tulsa drove 32 yards for a score. However, the ensuing two-point try failed, leaving the Bulldogs in the lead at 21-19 with 12:30 to go in regulation.
State then answered with a solid 11-play, 65-yard jaunt to take a 28-19 advantage. Rogers found Griffin on a 13-yard touchdown strike to cap the 4:29 march. The play ended a huge day for Griffin who amassed 155 all-purpose yards, including two kick returns of 40-plus yards.
The Bulldogs would then get what would be seemingly be the game clincher late in the fourth. With Tulsa driving inside the MSU 10-yard line, State’s Tyrus Wheat intercepted Smith.Though the play didn’t totally end the game, it did two big things at the time – halted a potential TU touchdown and gave State possession with the opportunity to run more time off the clock.
The Golden Hurricane was able to stop State quickly on the ensuing drive and score a touchdown to cut the margin to two at 28-26 with 1:23 on the clock. Tulsa’s onside kick attempt was recovered by the Bulldogs and, as TU had no timeouts remaining, MSU was able to run the clock out for the victory.