Your bowl game didn’t go well when your quarterback delivered a more painful hit than anybody on your defense.
Ask Mississippi State. That’s the Bulldogs, right there under the footprints of Georgia Tech, which stampeded for 452 yards on the ground and left the Bulldogs wrecked 49-34.
At least the Bulldogs reached the end zone and kept the game competitive into the third quarter, unlike their brethren from Oxford, Mississippi, earlier Wednesday in the Chik-fil-A Bowl. Ole Miss barely avoided a shutout, yet didn’t avoid humiliation in a 42-3 loss to Texas Christian.
It wasn’t that bad for Mississippi State, at least offensively. Defensively, the Bulldogs looked as if stopping Tech’s triple option ranked with running a supercollider. The Yellow Jackets’ runners didn’t just find holes in the Mississippi State defense. They found streets through which you could drive the famed Rambling Wreck that accompanies Georgia Tech on the run out of the tunnel.
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Two plays from the third quarter — when the game went from a 21-20 potential classic to a 42-20 blowout — summed up Mississippi State’s night.
On the first, another triple option to the right left Bulldogs cornerback Will Redmond facing speedy Tech quarterback Justin Thomas on the right end. Thomas gave Redmond a hip wiggle that Tupelo, Mississippi, native Elvis Presley might have admired and raced for the end zone as Redmond leaned to hug air. The 32-yard touchdown run put Tech up 35-20.
The fourth play of the next possession saw the Bulldogs run their own option to the left. A blink after quarterback Dak Prescott pitched to running back Josh Robinson, Georgia Tech cornerback Jamal Golden blasted Robinson with a hit that drew “ooooooooh”s from Sun Life Stadium when shown on replay. Defensive end Rod Rook-Chungong recovered at the Tech 48-yard line.
Oh, that hit from Prescott? In the second quarter, Prescott slid at the end of the run and Tech defensive back Demond Smith dove for a superfluous emphasis hit. Prescott’s raised knee found the middle of Smith’s groin area. Prescott got a 15-yard gain. Smith got an injury timeout.
It started poorly for Mississippi State and only briefly got better after Tech went up 14-0. On the first play after Tech’s Darren Waller scored on a 41-yard touchdown catch, state running back Josh Robinson plowed into a thicket of Yellow Jackets, got held up and out popped the ball like a seed from a squeezed orange. Georgia Tech’s Jamal Golden pounced on it, and the party started among the Tech defense.
But officials ruled that Robinson’s forward progress had been stopped before the fumble, an opinion not well supported by replay. That seemed to spin the momentum. The Bulldogs closed to 14-10 with the ball third and 7 on the Tech 13.
The chance for the lead disappeared with Prescott’s overthrow of Fred Ross. An Evan Sobiesk 30-yard field goal closed the gap to 14-13.
Another momentum shift seemed to be in the offing when State used the 29 seconds after Tech went up 21-13 to hit a half-closing Hail Mary.
Tech rushed only three linemen, with a late-coming spy as the fourth. This provided zero pass rush. Given more time on his drop than the Times Square ball would have for its drop two hours later, Prescott heaved the ball perfectly into a swarm of Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs. Two Georgia Tech defensive backs slapped the ball down and back toward the goal line. But Fred Ross dove in with scooping hands to answer the prayer.
That sent the Bulldogs to the locker room down only 21-20. The last night of 2014 never got better for Mississippi State.