STARKVILLE, Miss. – Ed Eagan tied a Northwestern State record Saturday. Chris Moore nearly broke another. But the Demons found no way, other than a couple of first-half fumble recoveries, to impede Heisman Trophy candidate Dak Prescott and the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
State didn’t punt until the fourth quarter, set a school single-game record with 647 total yards, and powered past the FCS Demons 62-13 at Davis Wade Field.
Eagan, NSU’s multitalented senior receiver and returner, tied the Demons’ career receptions mark with three grabs to give him 126 in two-plus seasons, equaling the four-year total by Derrick Doyle from 2003-06. The record-tying catch came on an 11-yard catch from Joel Blumenthal in the third quarter.
Moore blasted a 52-yard field goal with plenty of room to spare, getting NSU on the board early in the second quarter. It was one yard shy of tying Keith Hodnett’s 1988 school record.
Prescott accounted for 281 yards, completing 10 of 11 passes for 227 and two touchdowns while adding 54 yards on the ground, in the first two quarters pacing the Bulldogs (2-1) to a 34-6 halftime advantage.
The Demons (0-3) responded with their finest possession of the season, taking the second half kickoff and moving 72 yards in 14 plays over 7:48 to notch their only TD, a 10-yard De’Mard Llorens run.
“If there’s one disappointment,” said Bulldogs’ coach Dan Mullen, “it was that long drive opening the second half. We missed some tackles and they made some plays.”
That series was the first with Joel Blumenthal at quarterback. NSU used all four of its passers, with J.D. Almond, Stephen Rivers and Blumenthal all guiding long drives into the red zone. The Demons failed to convert a fake field goal on their first series of the afternoon as Almond led an 11-play, 58-yard march, but cashed in an 11-snap, 66-yard series steered by Rivers with a 26-yard Moore field goal 2:27 before halftime.
While NSU’s 257 total yards wasn’t especially impressive, beauty was in the eye of the beholder, said Demons’ coach Jay Thomas.
“I was very pleased with a lot of what our offense did,” said Thomas. “This defense held LSU to 21 points last week and you see what LSU did to Auburn today. We were able to move the ball, have some success, and it was very encouraging. We ran it really well at times, threw it effectively, didn’t turn it over. We can build from this.
“I liked how we were able to move the ball down the field several times,” said Thomas. “I was real proud of Chris Moore hammering that field goal with plenty of room to spare. I’m never worried about his kicking, I just worry about our protection, because he’s a weapon a lot of teams would be happy to have.”
The fifth-largest crowd in stadium history, 61,574, braved 95-degree temperatures to see nine Bulldog ballcarriers combine for 275 yards rushing, while 10 receivers contributed to the 372-yard passing total posted by three quarterbacks who were a combined 16 of 18.
“Defensively I saw some signs of progress but we just got overwhelmed by superior personnel. Any short list of the best players in college football, Dak Prescott is on it, and deservedly so,” said Thomas. “We didn’t tackle very well but some of that was just SEC-caliber players making plays. We still have a lot of progress to make and we can take this tape and learn from it.”
State drove 75 and 83 yards to go up 13-0 on its first two series, then cashed in a 33-yard short field after a 15-yard punt return and went up 20-0 at the end of the opening period.
The Demons got a Cody Jones fumble recovery forced by LaAllen Clark on a punt runback that produced Moore’s long field goal. Darius Poullard had a strip sack on Prescott and stole the ball for the other Bulldogs turnover.
Andy Wickman had a career-best 44.1 average on seven punts for the Demons, who come home and begin a stretch of eight consecutive Southland Conference games next Saturday against Central Arkansas (0-2), who was idle Saturday.
— Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Sports Information