September 27, 2011 9:44:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said this week he'd have to put more responsibility on the defensive backs.
That unit responded to the challenge with two late interceptions and a fumble recovery in the second half to preserve a 26-20 overtime victory against Louisiana Tech on Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.
"In the end we made the big plays we needed to make to win the game," Mullen said.
Interceptions by Nickoe Whitley and Johnthan Banks gave MSU (2-2) a chance to overcome a struggling offense that rallied in the extra period to deliver the winning points.
In the third quarter, junior defensive back Wade Bonner recorded his first career fumble recovery and then got his second career sack on a vicious hit of quarterback Nick Isham.
Throughout the evening, Isham was able to move the ball down the field, but just like last week in a loss to the University of Houston, Isham paid for costly throws into coverage.
MSU allowed 359 total yards, but its bend-but-don't break philosophy forced seven punts.
Maye out with concussion; Chris Hughes makes 2011 debut
Senior linebacker Brandon Maye was held out of the game after suffering a concussion in last week's 19-6 loss to LSU.
Maye was replaced in the starting lineup by classmate Brandon Wilson at middle linebacker.
Wilson had started the first two games before Maye earned the first start of his MSU career last week.
Sophomore Chris Hughes made his debut Saturday. Hughes' presence was a welcome sight to a depleted group of linebackers. His first action was as a member of the return team on the game's opening kickoff.
As we reported earlier in the week at The Dispatch, Hughes was arrested and found guilty on two counts of misdemeanor domestic violence. Christopher Levy, public information officer with the Mobile Police Department, said Hughes was arrested Aug. 31 on the charges.
According to Mobile Ala., Municipal Court records, Hughes was found guilty on the same day of his arrest of both counts of domestic violence.
Hughes, 20, was sentenced to five days in jail, one year of days in jail, one year of probation, and mandatory counseling.
"The (legal) situation was handled by authorities and by our team," Mullen told The Northeast Mississippi Journal. "The young man has been through a lot, and we expect him to come back and be a solid player for us this season."
Mullen still perfect after leading through three quarters
Mullen said he'd be disappointed while watching the film today, but was a very happy man Saturday night.
"We'll watch the film and find a way to improve, but I'm thrilled right now," Mullen said.
The Bulldogs third-year coach is 15-0 when leading after three quarters. MSU also won its 29th straight game when leading with 15 minutes to go.
Even when the boos could be heard from the Davis Wade Stadium crowd at the end of regulation, MSU senior offensive lineman Quentin Saulsberry said the team remained focused on a overtime period that could decide the direction of the season.
"We just kept saying this is what we trained for all summer long, all spring long," Saulsberry said.