for this game

Dixon's late score helps Mississippi State win Liberty Bowl

Dec 30, 2007 - 4:33 AM MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Sylvester Croom and Mississippi State are slowly turning things around.

Tailback Anthony Dixon scored the go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes to play, leading the Bulldogs to a 10-3 victory over Central Florida in the Autozone Liberty Bowl.

Croom entered this season with a 9-25 record at Mississippi State, but led the Bulldogs to wins over then-ranked Alabama and Kentucky en route to the school's first bowl appearance since 2000.

"Coach just started feeding me the ball," Dixon said. "And I wanted it so bad for our team. I just didn't want to go home with a loss, and I knew it was now or never."

In a defensive struggle, cornerback Keith Fitzhugh's interception of Knights quarterback Kyle Israel set up the lone touchdown of the game.

"I am extremely thankful for our team, our coaches, our support staff," Croom said. "We've got a lot of good people in this program. I think their character, their ability to overcome adversity, their team work, their spirit of oneness that they have, I think it's shown through all year and it showed through again tonight.

"I've said quite often, we don't need style points. We just find a way to win. I think that's part of what has helped us evolve toward being a championship program. I think that's a step you have to take is just learning how to win. I think we've done that. We found a way to get it done. Our defense created turnovers."

Fitzhugh picked off a pass on third down and the Bulldogs' offense finally showed some life. Freshman quarterback Wes Carroll ran for 19 yards and threw for 15 on a 10-play, 59-yard drive which was capped by Dixon's plunge from 1 yard out.

Dixon finished the game with 86 yards on 24 carries.

It certainly wasn't a game for the time capsule. The teams combined for just 420 yards and were 6-for-20 on third down conversions.

But the Bulldogs won because their defense played a terrific game. Mississippi State forced four turnovers and held Kevin Smith, the nation's leading rusher, to an average of 3.4 yards per carry.

Smith, who needed 181 yards to break Barry Sanders' all-time single-season mark of 2,628 yards, ran for 119 yards on 35 carries.

Central Florida got on the board first as Michael Torres kicked a 45-yard field goal with 11:55 remaining in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs (8-5) then capitalized on an interception by cornerback Derek Pegues and tied the game at 3-3. Pegues, who had two picks, intercepted Israel at the UCF 19-yard line and returned it to the 6-yard line.

"We knew by watching film that the quarterback likes to stare down his receivers a lot," Pegues said. "And I was able to get a good read off his eyes and was just lucky I caught the ball. He just threw it right to me both times, and I was lucky to catch the ball."

However, Mississippi State had to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Adam Carlson which tied the game at 3-3 with 6:02 left in the half.

Central Florida (10-4) twice had a chance to snap the tie, but Torres missed a pair of second-half field goals.

Torres, who had hit 19 of his 21 attempts on the season, missed wide right from 32 yards with 5:34 left in the third. He then missed wide left on a 37-yard attempt with 10:34 remaining in the fourth.

"I was going to kick the field goal. Mike's had such a good season this year," Knights coach George O'Leary said. "I was disappointed he missed two. I think that was momentum, but I never gave second thoughts on whether I was going to kick it or go for it. If we got that situation again I might have.

"Our coaches did a great job I think at putting pressure on their field goal kicker forcing him to miss those field goals," Croom said. "Our offense didn't make mistakes. We missed some opportunities early on a couple penalties."

Israel finished the game 10-of-24 for 88 yards and three interceptions, while Carroll was 8-of-18 for 39 yards and a pick.

"Again, I think those missed field goals were big momentum breakers," O'Leary said. "Give Mississippi State credit, they fought hard and didn't turn the ball over. That usually means you're going to come up with a close win like that. Again, it's a disappointing loss. I think it was a good college football game. A good game for the Liberty Bowl."








  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    UCF 0 3 0 0 3
    MISSISSIPPI ST 0 3 0 7 10 FINAL
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: NONE
    2ND QUARTER: UCF - FG, MICHAEL TORRES 45 YD, 3:11.
    UCF 3-0
    MISSISSIPPI ST - FG, ADAM CARLSON 22 YD, 8:58. UCF
    3-3
    3RD QUARTER: NONE
    4TH QUARTER: MISS

    Dec 29 7:50 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF LIBERTY BOWL
    TD MISSISSIPPI ST
    ANTHONY DIXON 1 YD RUN
    (ADAM CARLSON KICK)
    UCF 3
    MISSISSIPPI ST 10 1:55 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    UCF vs. Mississippi StateDec 29 7:42 PM
  • 102
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    RUWTbot Took away 33 roots (Close Finish)

    UCF vs. Mississippi StateDec 29 7:42 PM
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    alamowx Added 5 roots

    UCF vs. Mississippi StateDec 29 7:40 PM
  • 130
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    RUWTbot Added 17 roots (Close Finish)

    UCF vs. Mississippi StateDec 29 7:39 PM
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    RUWTbot Added 44 roots (Close Finish)

    UCF vs. Mississippi StateDec 29 7:34 PM
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    UCF vs. Mississippi StateDec 29 7:32 PM
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    UCF vs. Mississippi StateDec 29 7:30 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF END, 3RD QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    UCF 0 3 0 3
    MISSISSIPPI ST 0 3 0 3 END, 3RD QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: NONE
    2ND QUARTER: UCF - FG, MICHAEL TORRES 45 YD, 3:11.
    UCF 3-0
    MISSISSIPPI ST - FG, ADAM CARLSON 22 YD, 8:58. UCF
    3-3
    3RD QUARTER: NONE

    Dec 29 7:02 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF HALFTIME 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    UCF 0 3 3
    MISSISSIPPI ST 0 3 3 HALFTIME
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: NONE
    2ND QUARTER: UCF - FG, MICHAEL TORRES 45 YD, 3:11.
    UCF 3-0
    MISSISSIPPI ST - FG, ADAM CARLSON 22 YD, 8:58. UCF
    3-3

    Dec 29 6:03 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF LIBERTY BOWL
    FG MISSISSIPPI ST
    ADAM CARLSON 22 YD
    UCF 3
    MISSISSIPPI ST 3 6:02 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    UCF vs. Mississippi StateDec 29 5:48 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF LIBERTY BOWL
    FG UCF
    MICHAEL TORRES 45 YD
    UCF 3
    MISSISSIPPI ST 0 11:49 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    UCF vs. Mississippi StateDec 29 5:32 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF END, 1ST QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    UCF 0 0
    MISSISSIPPI ST 0 0 END, 1ST QTR

    Dec 29 5:20 PM
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    UCF vs. Mississippi StateDec 29 3:57 PM
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    UCF vs. Mississippi StateDec 29 3:18 PM
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    UCF vs. Mississippi StateDec 22 11:30 AM