Tulane Experiences The Legion Of Croom

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP)- Sylvester Croom won his first game as Mississippi State coach, with Jerious Norwood running for 112 yards and a touchdown in a 28-to-7 victory over Tulane tonight. The Bulldogs held their helmets in hand, whooping and dancing around Croom, the first black head football coach in Southeastern Conference history, as the clock expired. Flashbulbs sparkled throughout Scott Field, and Croom jogged off to a standing ovation from the crowd. Omarr Conner threw for 135 yards and a touchdown in his first start a quarterback for the Bulldogs, who scored on their first two possessions of the second half to break a scoreless tie. Mississippi State has a winning record for the first time since winning the 2001 opener against Memphis, when this year's seniors were freshmen. Tulane closed to 14-7 early in the fourth quarter on Lester Ricard's 59-yard touchdown pass to Chris Bush. But the Bulldogs countered on their next series, when Norwood's 43-yard off-tackle run set up Fred Reid's 5-yard TD run to make it 21-7. Tulane (0-1) didn't cross midfield the rest of the way. Conner, a star high school quarterback who played receiver last year as a freshman under former coach Jackie Sherrill, was 9-for-17 and rushed seven times for 25 yards. Ricard, an LSU transfer also making his first start, completed 16-of-31 passes for 135 yards, but was intercepted twice. The Bulldogs held Tulane to 70 yards rushing, 26 in the second half. Green Wave leading rusher Jovon Jackson ran for 65 yards, but just 17 after halftime, against a Mississippi State defense that was one of the worst in the nation a year ago. The Bulldogs' defense set up the Bulldogs' first lead under Croom. Darren Williams picked off Ricard on Tulane's first possession of the second half and returned it to the Tulane 13. Two plays later, Norwood scored from 10 yards out. Conner then hit Eric Butler with an 11-yard touchdown pass on the Bulldogs' next series to make it 14-0. The teams labored through a sloppy, scoreless first half marked by dropped passes, penalties and near-turnovers. Tulane blew its best scoring chance late in the half, when Clarence McDougal intercepted Ricard's pass in the end zone after the Green Wave drove to the Bulldogs' 5. Rico Bennett appeared to have scored the first points of the Croom era when he returned Ricard's fumble 70 yards for a touchdown. But an official blew the play dead, and after a conference, gave Tulane the ball back and ordered the down replayed.