Bulldogs Light It Up On Blue Raiders

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) _ Josh Morgan didn't sound like a player whose team had just won its homecoming game by 26 points. After a second straight lifeless performance by the defense, Mississippi State's free safety didn't feel much like celebrating the 20th-ranked Bulldogs' 61-35 victory over Middle Tennessee on Saturday. ``As far as our standpoint, we lost,'' said Morgan, who was part of a unit that allowed 527 total yards to the Blue Raiders (3-5). ``It hurts us a lot. We're just not used to playing like that. Not used to giving up that many yards.'' Mississippi State's offense picked up the slack running roughshod over Middle Tennessee and scoring almost at will. Dicenzo Miller ran for 114 yards on 12 carries and Dontae Walker had 104 on 14. Both scored two touchdowns, as Mississippi State (5-2) gained 530 yards and rushed for seven TDS. Miller surpassed 100 yards rushing for the fourth straight game and Mississippi State extended its home winning streak to 15 games, third longest in the nation. But afterward, the Bulldogs' first 60-point game since 1994 was overshadowed by its suddenly porous defense. The same defense that set the tone in victories over Florida and Auburn earlier in the season with it hard-hitting, physical play. ``We aren't getting pressure on the quarterback. We didn't contain and we didn't cover,'' coach Jackie Sherrill said. ``Those are the things that happened to us last week, as well.'' The Bulldogs blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost 45-38 in overtime at LSU last week. ``We're not making the plays we're supposed to. Give credit to the other team, but we have a lot of things we need to do,'' linebacker Mario Haggan said. Mississippi State won 10 games last season with the No. 1 defense in the country and an inconsistent offense. This season the two have reversed roles. ``We've got a lot of pride in our offense,'' Haggan said. ``We hope those guys continue to play good football and put up points. Right now we need them to stay in the game and help us out.'' Mississippi State scored touchdowns on five of its first six possessions, and got them with ease. The Bulldogs' receivers and backs were too fast and elusive for the Blue Raiders, who were often left grasping air as they tried to make tackles. Walker and Miller ran through huge holes in the middle of the line, while Wayne Madkin faced little pressure and finished 13-of-18 for 213 yards. ``We challenge each other to see who can get more yards,'' said Walker, who along with Miller form the most productive tailback duo in the Southeastern Conference. The two have combined for 1,078 yards rushing. Madkin played just two series in the second half directing Mississippi State on an 11-play, 78-yard touchdown drive before calling it a day. Justin Griffith scored on a 2-yard run on fourth-and-1 to make it 40-16 at 7:27. Griffith also ran for two touchdowns. Mississippi State had 329 yards in the first half in taking a 33-9 lead. The Blue Raiders moved the ball effectively between the 20s during the first half, and broke free for four long touchdowns in the second half. Tyrone Calico caught touchdown passes of 42 and 28 yards, and in between Dwone Hicks ripped through Mississippi State's defense for a 47-yard scoring run. Calico's second touchdown made it 47-28 14:04 left in the fourth and Jason Johnson ran a quarterback draw in from 21 yards out that made it 54-35 with 7:50 to play. But four turnovers and an equally inept defensive performance kept the Blue Raiders from ever making a serious challenge. ``We cannot win games when we commit a lot of turnovers,'' Middle Tennessee coach Andy McCollum said. Conner Stephens' 36-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter was the only highlight for Mississippi State's lethargic defense. Wes Counts was 13-of-28 for 242 yards and two touchdowns for Middle Tennessee. Kendall Newson made nine catches for 180 yards, and Hicks ran for 116 yards on 13 carries. ``We are not interested in stats,'' McCollum said. ``They may look good, but stats do not win football games.''