September 19, 2009 11:40:00 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Mississippi State football team''s defense wasn''t going to let the play of the offense and special teams go to waste Saturday night against Vanderbilt University.
After not taking advantage of a blocked punt return for a touchdown by Robert Elliott last week in a loss to Auburn, the Bulldogs were again put in a position to win with solid special teams play and timely offense.
MSU''s Jamie Jones recovered a muffed punt by Alex Washington that led to a Sean Brauchle''s 49-yard field goal, his third of the game, with 1 minute, 52 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs added a touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 22-yard run by senior quarterback Tyson Lee, of Columbus, and went on to earn a 15-3 Southeastern Conference win in front of a crowd of 31,840 at Vanderbilt Stadium.
"We were very fortunate to win," MSU defensive coordinator Carl Torbush said. "It was pins and needles down to the very end."
After giving up 589 yards of total offense and 390 rushing yards to Auburn in a 49-24 loss, the Bulldogs (2-1, 1-1 SEC) held the Commodores to 33 yards rushing and 157 yards overall.
"The defense played extremely well, and that was the highlight of the night," Lee said.
The biggest defensive stand came in the second quarter after Vanderbilt''s Tim Fugger recovered Robert Elliott''s fumble at the 6-yard line.
The Commodores (1-2, 0-2 SEC) moved only 3 yards and settled for a 20-yard field goal by Ryan Fowler with 1:33 remaining before halftime.
MSU safeties Charles Mitchell and Zach Smith hit Kennard Reeves on third down to force the field-goal attempt.
MSU''s defense held Vanderbilt to one first down in the first half and 33 yards total offense.
The Commodores averaged 415 yards total offense in their first two games.
The Bulldogs gave up only 4 yards rushing in the first half.
"You couldn''t be prouder for our defense," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "That''s a team that has been putting up big numbers and we hold them to 33 yards rushing. Carl, the defensive staff, and all those players, they took (what we were teaching) to heart last week, really came out and played hard."
The first half was a defensive struggle.
The Bulldogs took a 6-3 lead at halftime when Brauchle kicked a 27-yard field goal with 2:14 left in the second quarter. The Bulldogs drove 62 yards in 11 plays to set Brauchle up.
It was Brauchle''s second field goal of the quarter. He also nailed a 44-yarder on the first play.
MSU''s Smith (seven tackles) said each point was precious to the defense and the unit was going to do everything possible to protect them.
"It was a three-point game, then a six-point game," Smith said. "We talked about playing relentless effort. We kept punching and battling. That''s what caused us to win."