STARKVILLE - True freshman Will Rogers propelled Mississippi State back into the win column as the Bulldogs defeated Vanderbilt, 24-17, Saturday afternoon at Davis Wade Stadium.
In his first career start, Rogers fueled MSU's (2-4, 2-4 SEC) offensive attack as he registered 226 yards through the air and one touchdown while completing 35-of-46 attempts. The 35 attempts are the most by an MSU freshman in program history, besting the 29 completions by Wesley Carroll at Arkansas in 2007.
It only took 3:13 for State to grasp the lead, one that they would maintain for the remainder of the game. Collin Duncan intercepted Ken Seals' pass on Vanderbilt's (0-5, 0-5 SEC) first drive and returned it 28 yards to the VU 27-yard line. The Bulldogs took advantage of the turnover as Rogers found Osirus Mitchell from six yards out five plays later.
The Maroon and White struck again on their next possession as Rogers ripped off seven consecutive completions for 51 yards to land at Vanderbilt's 17-yard line. Four snaps later, Dillon Johnson plunged four yards into the end zone to give State to a two-score lead over the Commodores with 2:33 remaining in the first quarter.
MSU headed into the break with a 17-0 lead after a successful field goal attempt by Brandon Ruiz.
Vanderbilt ended their scoring drought in the third quarter courtesy of a Chris Pierce 2-yard touchdown reception. The eight-play, 71-yard march was ignited by a Amir Abdur-Rahman 28-yard pass from Seals and highlighted by four receptions of 10-plus yards.
Keyon Henry-Brooks tacked on a 27-yard rushing touchdown with 12:27 on the clock to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 17-14. Vanderbilt marched to Mississippi State's 28-yard line, but Marquiss Spencer intercepted Seals' pass and returned it 27 yards to end the Commodore threat.
Jo'quavious Marks put the finishing touches on State's victory with a 1-yard scamper with 2:43 remaining in the contest.
VU's Pierson Cooke connected on a career-long 41-yard field goal to bring the score to its final 24-17 margin.
"That moment meant a lot to me. First of all, it was a huge honor to be asked to carry the flag. I was just very proud to be able to wave a flag that unites all Mississippians. It was a huge moment for me personally and for the whole state." - Kobe Jones on leading the team out of the tunnel with the new state flag
Will Rogers in the Record Books
Rogers became the seventh true freshman to start at quarterback in school history, and just the fourth to make his first start in an SEC game.
He threw for 226 yards, the most by a Bulldog true freshman in his first start. With his touchdown pass in the first quarter, Rogers joined Todd Jordan as the only MSU true freshman quarterbacks to throw a touchdown in their first start.
His 35 pass completions mark the most by a freshman in school history and rank fifth in MSU single-game history.
Mark sets Running Back Reception Record
Jo'quavious Marks caught seven passes to give him 38 receptions this season, breaking the MSU single-season record for catches by both a running back and by a freshman. Justin Griffith previously held both records with 37 in 1999.
Marks recorded the first touchdown of his career with a 1-yard rush in the fourth quarter.
State's Takeaway Run Continues
The Bulldogs forced a season-high five turnovers, which marks the most in a game since Nov. 17, 2012, when State tallied five against Arkansas.
Collin Duncan, Erroll Thompson and Marquiss Spencer intercepted passes in the contest. Tyrus Wheat forced a fumble in the third quarter that was recovered by Esaias Furdge. Wheat also recorded a strip-sack and recovered the fumble in the fourth quarter.
The five takeaways mark the tenth multi-turnover game since the start of the 2019 season.
MSU has collected at least one takeaway in 32 of its last 35 games dating back to the 2017 season at Arkansas on Nov. 18. State has compiled 63 takeaways over the 35-game stretch.
MSU's Defense Holds Strong
State tallied 101 total tackles, marking the first time MSU recorded 100-plus tackles since Oct. 29, 2016 against Samford. It marks the first time the Bulldogs have completed the feat against an SEC opponent since Oct. 8, 2016 against Auburn.
With three successful extra point attempts, Brandon Ruiz boasts an active streak of 104 consecutive extra points made in his career.
The Bulldogs have also won 11 straight homecoming contests.
Next Up for MSU
State remains at home next Saturday, Nov. 14, to welcome No. 21 Auburn (4-2, 4-2 SEC) to Davis Wade Stadium. Kickoff between the Bulldogs and Tigers is slated for 3 p.m. CT and the contest will be televised by the SEC Network.