September 10, 2017 1:22:52 AM
RUSTON, La. -- As the midway point of the third quarter loomed, Gerri Green and Jeffery Simmons already had made an impact.
Green forced a fumble that led to a quick score, while Simmons scored a touchdown after he blocked a punt.
Green and Simmons then joined forces to put the game out of reach.
Green's second sack with less 10 minutes to go in the third quarter forced the football from Louisiana Tech quarterback J'Mar Smith's grasp. Simmons was there to recover the fumble and return it 90 yards for a touchdown.
The score was part of a another dominant defensive effort that led the Mississippi State football team to a 57-21 victory against Louisiana Tech on Saturday night.
Green was part of the "barricade" that protected Simmons on his 90-yard rumble to the end zone. It was the second touchdown of the game for the former Noxubee County High School standout. Green joked with Simmons that he stole his first touchdown from him.
Late in the first quarter, Simmons broke through the middle of Louisiana Tech's punt formation and blocked a punt, doing so as a blocker hoisted him up overhead. As the ball bounced back over the goal line, Green was poised to fall on the ball. Green hit the ground a little ahead of the ball and never gained full possession of it. Simmons practically fell on top of him and grabbed it with one hand for the score.
Simmons had to beg to get a spot on the field for the play.
"They called timeout and I told coach, 'Leave us on the field, I'm going to go block it,' " Simmons said.
In between Simmons' two touchdowns, Green created another touchdown with his other sack. Green's first sack forced a fumble by Smith gave MSU the ball at the 14-yard line. MSU scored two plays later.
Green's menacing of Smith was a week in the making. Given little to no opportunity to do so against Charleston Southern, which attempted eight passes, MSU was itching to rush a passer. Green might have been the most willing of all.
"That's work ethic," said MSU coach Dan Mullen, whose team improved to 2-0. "Gerri is poster-child-type person: great student, leadership committee, whatever you ask him to do he's going to do the best he possibly can. That translates when you watch him play. The energy he plays with and the intensity he plays with is pretty special."
MSU needed the defensive and special teams plays after it fell behind 9-0 less than 10 minutes into the game. The comeback was formed in a sidelines conversation.
"We felt like the whole team overall came out slow and flat, so we just challenged ourselves to make the play," Green said.
Said Mullen, "Our (starting) defense really just gave up two field goals. I'm really pleased with how they played and kind of took a big step forward."
Following a revival of MSU's offense that featured six-straight possessions with a touchdown, Simmons returned his fumble recovery for a score. Green credited Simmons for the speed he showed on the play.
"Two touchdowns by a guy his size, that's crazy," Green said.
Simmons, who became the first MSU defensive player to score two touchdowns in a game since Johnthan Banks in 2009, said he picked the ball up and, "I saw gold."
Simmons seeing gold on a field of green was fitting for a game that featured three blocked extra points, one blocked punt, and an 87-yard fumble
"It was a strange game at times, wasn't it?" Mullen said. "Jeffery Simmons led us in scoring."
MSU junior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more. He threw for 124 yards and ran for 111 yards. Former West Point High School standout Aeris Williams had nine carries for 107 yards.
Former Columbus High standout Kylin Hill had 10 carries for 62 yards.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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