Mississippi State bullies BYU to hand Cougars sixth straight loss

Photo: Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

The BYU Cougars (1-6) were pushed around by the Mississippi State Bulldogs (4-2) for sixty minutes. Whenever the Cougars did catch a break, they were unable to capitalize. The result was a 35-10 loss. 

BYU began the day with a time consuming opening drive. Using a balance of runs and short passes, the Cougars crossed into Bulldog territory--something they were unable to do the last time they faced an SEC opponent--but the drive stalled and BYU punted.

The punt pinned Mississippi State back at its 11-yard line. It appeared BYU had an early advantage with field position. The Cougar D forced two 3rd down situations, but the Bulldogs converted each of them. After the second third down, Mississippi State ripped off 20 and 19 yards on back-to-back plays to reach the red zone. Two plays later, the Mississippi State quarterback ran the ball in from 15-yards out.

BYU quickly punted the ball back to Mississippi State without picking up a first down. Quarterback Tanner Mangum had a pass dropped on 2nd down. Despite having lots of green grass in front of him, Trey Dye came up a yard short of the first down the next play.

The Cougar defense came up with a three and out of its own.

BYU picked up 15 yards on a pass to Jonah Trinnaman to start its next drive. A nine-yard pass to Ula Tolutau set up a 3rd and 1, but BYU couldn't convert to keep the drive going.

The Bulldogs then put together a 12-play drive at the start of the second quarter that set them up to take control of the game. An overthrown pass was intercepted by Dayan Ghanwoloku in the end zone. He raced 67 yards before being taken down. That gave BYU an opportunity to tie the game.

Rather than match Mississippi State touchdown for touchdown, two plays later, BYU matched the Bulldogs turnover for turnover. Ula Tolutau was stripped while fighting for extra yards. Mississippi State recovered.

Turns out, Ghanwoloku's interception was just delaying the inevitable. Mississippi State moved downfield with ease, and scored a touchdown to go up 14-0.

On the ensuing possession, BYU broke through with a 43-yard pass to Aleva Hifo. Pass interference in the end zone was called on Mississippi State the next play, but it was offset by a penalty on the Cougars for an ineligible receiver downfield. The drive stalled, and BYU had to settle for a field goal.

The field goal by BYU did little to slow down the Bulldogs. They moved the ball down the field, with ease, again, and added a third touchdown to the scoreboard with 22 seconds to play in the half. That made it 21-3 at the break.

The second half started the same way the first ended: Mississippi State driving 75 yards for a touchdown. The Bulldogs didn't even face third down on the drive.

At 28-3, there was no reason to think BYU could make a comeback. Mississippi State had scored touchdowns on each of its last three possessions. The Cougars delayed the onslaught temporarily by forcing a punt after three plays on Mississippi State's next possession, but the Bulldogs were threatening again on its next possession.

Butch Pau'u blitzed and got pressure on the Mississippi State quarterback. That forced an early pass that Ghanwoloku was able to intercept. He returned this one 38 yards. An extra 15 yards from a Mississippi State personal foul gave BYU possession at the Bulldog 42-yard line.

Mississippi State gave BYU another 15 yards with a roughing the passer penalty on the next play. Mangum threw a strike to Hifo at the goal line immediately after that. It was now 28-10. Mississippi State fumbled the kickoff, and the Cougars recovered at the 29-yard line.

As the third quarter ended, the idea of a BYU comeback wasn't so far fetched.

The idea quickly vanished. Facing 4th and 12, Mangum heaved a pass to the end zone that was intercepted, and returned 30 yards--one yard shy of the line of scrimmage on the play.

With 7:20 to play, Mississippi State scored one final time to officially put the game out of reach, 35-10.

Joe Critchlow came in at quarterback for the final BYU possession. He completed one of three passes for two yards.

Mississippi State piled up 546 yards of total offense. Two players had over 100 yards rushing for the Bulldogs who had  306 yards on 58 carries.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Tanner Mangum 27-yard touchdown pass to Aleva Hifo

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Dayan Ghanwoloku, 2 interceptions, 105 return yards, 2 tackles

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