Mississippi State struggled for a half with UAB before pulling away in the second half for a 47-34 victory at Davis Wade Stadium. The two teams seesawed back and forth throughout the first half, before a third-quarter point explosion for the Bulldogs led to a second consecutive victory over a Conference USA foe.
Throughout the first half, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen rotated the quarterback position nearly every series between Dak Prescott and Damian Williams. Initially the insertion of Williams appeared to confirm the rumor of an injury suffered by Prescott during this week's practice, but as the game went on, it appeared the rotation was simply a coaching decision.
After an opening series which saw the Bulldogs go 80 yards in three plays, including a 68-yard touchdown from Prescott to Robert Johnson, the offense largely stagnated. Prescott went 5-of-14 with 2 touchdowns and one interception in the first half, while Williams went 2-of-6.
The Bulldogs defense did turn in a highlight-reel play during the first half with a P.J. Smith interception to extend their lead to 13-3 (the extra point was missed, as was another first-half extra point attempt).
The Blazers offense could not get their running game going, but gave the Mississippi State passing defense fits as the Blazers went for 240 passing yards in the first half. Included in those passing numbers was an 88-yard touchdown from Jeremiah Briscoe to Jamarcus Nelson that gave them a 17-13 lead. That was the second consecutive offensive touchdown yielded by the Bulldogs defense after only giving up only two offensive touchdowns in the previous 15 quarters.
Mississippi State scored the last points of the second quarter to re-take the lead at 26-20 after four second-quarter lead changes. After Mullen ended the quarterback rotation, Prescott led a 12-play, 76-yard drive which was capped by a 20-yard Prescott pass to Gus Walley (and a made extra point -- off the upright).
After the halftime break, the Bulldogs blocked a UAB punt to set up a three-play, 20-yard touchdown drive to extend the lead to 33-20. The Bulldogs scored 14 more third-quarter points to extend its lead to 47-27. The Blazers added a last-minute touchdown to get to the final score of 47-34 before a failed onside kick attempt. Prescott finished the game 12-of-25 for 211 yards, a career-high tying four touchdowns and a red zone interception.
Aside from the offense's first-half struggles during the quarterback platoon, the Mississippi State defense had issues with UAB's deep passing game. The Blazers hit on touchdown passes of 88, 81 and 75 yards, as well as another completion of 53. In all, UAB had 435 passing yards on 16 completions. Jeremiah Briscoe finished 5-of-15 for 231 yards and two touchdowns.
Next Saturday, Mississippi State travels to Mobile, Ala. for a road game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium against South Alabama at 4 p.m.