Sept. 8, 2007
NEW ORLEANS, La. - Running back Anthony Dixon rambled for 141 yards and two touchdowns to spark a 489-yard effort by the Mississippi State offense as the Tulane University football team dropped a 38-17 decision to the Bulldogs in the Green Wave's season opener Saturday evening in the Louisiana Superdome.
Junior linebacker James Dillard posted a career-best 16 tackles - 10 solo stops to go along with six assists - and forced a fumble, but it was not enough as the Bulldog (1-1) defense held Tulane (0-1) to just 49 yards and no first downs in the second half. The Green Wave turned the ball over three times on the day - two fumbles and an interception - and Mississippi State turned them into a trio of touchdowns.
"Physically, we could not match up with them in the run game," Tulane head coach Bob Toledo said. "I thought our protection was pretty good, but we could not run the ball. Our defense was on the field entirely too long. It's a tribute to (Mississippi State) controlling the football."
Junior quarterback Scott Elliott completed 15-of-26 passes for 197 yards and a score. But on the third play of the game, Elliott had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage that linebacker Gabe O'Neal plucked it out of the air and returned 47 yards for the opening score of the ballgame.
The Green Wave came right back with a 61-yard drive on the ensuing possession, capped by a 39-yard touchdown run by senior running back Matt Forté. The Bulldogs, however, turned a Forté fumble later in the quarter into a score as quarterback Michael Henig found paydirt on an 18-yard scramble to put Mississippi State ahead, 14-7.
As it had done the first time the Bulldogs scored, Tulane answered with a touchdown of its own - this time culminating with an eight-yard pass from Elliott to sophomore fullback Jeremy McKinney to tie things up.
The two teams traded field goals in the second quarter to make it a 17-all ballgame at halftime, but the Bulldogs began to assert themselves from there as they took the opening kickoff and drove 61 yards on nine plays to take a 24-17 lead 3:30 into the third quarter.
Mississippi State took advantage of a short field following another Tulane fumble five drives later as Dixon ran over left guard for a 27-yard touchdown jaunt to stake the Bulldogs to a 14-point lead. Dixon capped the scoring with a seven-yard run over right guard with 9:33 left to play in regulation.
The Bulldogs amassed 192 of their 266 rushing after the bands played, including 91 second-half yards by Dixon. Justin Williams added to the MSU rushing totals with 60 yards on nine carries while Christian Ducré chipped in with 46 yards on nine totes. State quarterback Michael Henig completed 20-of-31 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown, while Jamayel Smith paced the aerial attack with four grabs for 53 yards.
The Green Wave defense tallied six tackles for loss against the Bulldogs, including sacks by defensive ends Logan Kelley and Reggie Scott. Dillard and Kelley both forced fumbles and senior cornerback Carlis Jackson posted his first career interception with a pick of Henig in the first quarter.
"When you lose a football game, you're not happy about it," Toledo said. "The players are disappointed and I'm disappointed. But I'm proud of the fact that we kept playing hard to the end. In the first half, we had two turnovers which resulted in touchdowns. We came back and fought hard the first half and made it a tied contest at halftime.
"They took the second-half kickoff down the field and scored. Then we turned it over. We had a miscue on blocking and a man was turned loose, and (that) caused a fumble. Then we couldn't sustain any drives."
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Sept. 15, when they open the Conference USA portion of their schedule against the Houston Cougars at 6 p.m. in the Louisiana Superdome. The Houston game is the second of four consecutive home games for Tulane to open the 2007 season as the Green Wave will also play host to Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 22 and arch-rival LSU on Sept. 29.
Season and single-game tickets for the 2006 season remain on sale through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. Tickets can be purchased in person, over the telephone at (504) 861-WAVE or via the internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.