N.C. State worried about cleaning up temporary lapses and mental breakdowns before the Belk Bowl.
Mississippi State gave the Wolfpack a new set of problems in a convincing 51-28 win on Wednesday at Bank of America Stadium.
The Bulldogs (9-4) dominated N.C. State’s defense and were seemingly a step ahead of the Wolfpack (7-6) all game long in piling up 569 yards in a record-setting performance by senior quarterback Dak Prescott.
“Their offense is relentless,” N.C. State senior center Joe Thuney said. “You have to give credit where credit is due. They executed really well for all four quarters.”
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Prescott threw for a bowl-record 380 yards and four touchdown passes. It was N.C. State’s first loss in three trips to the Charlotte bowl and fifth straight loss to an SEC team.
In the run-up to the bowl game, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren lamented about his team’s mistakes and hiccups in critical ACC losses to Louisville and Virginia Tech.
The Wolfpack spotted Mississippi State a 21-0 lead, after a pair of interceptions in the first quarter by quarterback Jacoby Brissett, but in the simplest terms, Mississippi State’s offense was just better than N.C. State’s defense.
“We just weren’t able to stop them at the end,” Doeren said.
The Bulldogs picked off Brissett on the first play of the game, a short pass in the flat that was intended for running back Nyheim Hines. The Bulldogs took the gift at N.C. State’s 26-yard line and quickly cashed in for a 14-yard touchdown catch by junior receiver Fred Ross.
Mississippi State made it 14-0 after an interception by Brandon Bryant gave the Bulldogs the ball at their own 33-yard line. Prescott needed only two passes of 39 and 28 yards, both to receiver De’Runnya Wilson, to extend the lead.
“That was opposite of what we were hoping for in the first quarter,” Doeren said.
A 33-yard end-around by Ross at 12:17 in the second quarter extended the Bulldogs lead to 21-0. N.C. State finally got on the board with an 82-yard touchdown pass to tight end Pharoah McKever, who had spent all of the regular season at defensive end.
The first of two touchdown runs by sophomore Jaylen Samuels made it 21-14 at 6:43 in the second quarter. Samuels scored on a jet sweep on fourth down. Earlier in the same drive he ran for four yards on a similar play. Those were his only two carries of the first half.
Samuels added a 1-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds left and finished the game with 53 yards on three carries and two touchdowns. He also had one catch for minus-2 yards.
Doeren said they tried to get Samuels, the team’s season leader in touchdowns, more involved in the offense but Mississippi State took him away.
“There were several plays that were called to go to him and we couldn’t get it to him,” Doeren said.
Mississippi State scored the last 10 points of the first half, with center Justin Malone falling on a Prescott fumble in the end zone and kicker Westin Graves adding a 39-yard field goal for a 31-14 lead.
N.C. State couldn’t get its passing game going with Brissett completing only three passes in the first half and throwing for 214 yards, and completing 12 of 28 attempts, in the game. The Mississippi State defense pressured Brissett for most of the game and sacked him five times.
The Bulldogs had no such problems on offense. Prescott completed five passes for 25 yards or more. When Prescott couldn’t throw, he ran 47 yards, most of which came as the Bulldogs went 9 of 17 on third down.
Junior running back Brandon Holloway caught a pair of touchdowns, and Wilson finished with a game-high 96 receiving yards.
After Prescott’s fourth touchdown pass, a 55-yarder to Holloway at 9:41 in the fourth quarter, the rain-soaked Mississippi State fans began the familiar “S-E-C!” chant.
And while the Bulldogs celebrated the win, N.C. State was left to ponder how it can close the gap on the better teams on its schedule. The Wolfpack finished the season winless in six games against bowl teams.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” Samuels said. “We’re going to learn from this loss and take it into the offseason and come back better.”
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
MISSISSIPPI ST. 51, N.C. STATE 28
MSSt—Ross 14 pass from Prescott (Graves kick), 13:33.
MSSt—D.Wilson 28 pass from Prescott (Graves kick), 3:31.
MSSt—Ross 33 run (Graves kick), 12:17.
NCSt—McKever 82 pass from Brissett (Bambard kick), 11:16.
NCSt—Samuels 48 run (Bambard kick), 6:43.
MSSt—Malone recovered fumble in end zone (Graves kick), 3:18.
MSSt—FG Graves 39, :14.
NCSt—Brissett 3 run (Bambard kick), 7:20.
MSSt—Holloway 10 pass from Prescott (kick failed), 1:16.
MSSt—Holloway 55 pass from Prescott (Graves kick), 9:41.
MSSt—A.Williams 33 run (Graves kick), 5:38.
NCSt—Samuels 1 run (Bambard kick), :45.
Time of Possession
RUSHING—N.C. State, Hines 13-70, Brissett 26-67, Samuels 3-53, Nichols 6-22, Cherry 1-0, Team 2-(minus 2). Mississippi St., Prescott 12-47, Holloway 13-41, A.Williams 3-39, Ross 1-33, Shumpert 5-27, Lee 1-2.
PASSING—N.C. State, Brissett 12-28-2-214. Mississippi St., Prescott 25-42-1-380.
RECEIVING—N.C. State, Ramos 5-75, Grinnage 2-18, Alston 2-16, McKever 1-82, Cherry 1-25, Samuels 1-(minus 2). Mississippi St., Ross 7-74, D.Wilson 5-96, Holloway 4-78, Dear 3-25, F.Brown 2-41, D.Gray 2-40, Hutcherson 2-26.