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SMITH COLUMN: Special teams play important to MSU victory

November 17, 2012

Smith

There is a reason special teams is called special.

Sometimes that particular unit can ignite a fire for a football team that can be a momentum changer.

That was the case Saturday for the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium.

Benardrick McKinney recovered a fumbled punt with 10:30 remaining in the fourth quarter with MSU down 14-7.

Even though all the Bulldogs could get out of the situation at the time was a 39-yard field goal by Devon Bell, it was the start of something positive and helped MSU go on to a 45-14 victory.

McKinney said effort enabled him to be in the position to make a play when his team needed it.

"(MSU) Coach (Dan) Mullen always says go hard and if you go hard, the ball is going to come to you," McKinney said. "I ran hard down the field and the ball ended up coming to me."

McKinney's fumble recovery was the only turnover MSU was able to get in the first half, but there were a flurry of them in the second half.

Along with McKinney, the Bulldogs got fumble recoveries by Cameron Lawrence and Preston Smith, while Darius Slay and Jamerson Love had one interception each.

"It's the main thing to get big turnovers," McKinney said. "When you get turnovers, it gets the crowd and players hyped up."

The crowd of 54,836 certainly needed something to get excited about with MSU coming off three-straight losses.

When the Bulldogs fell behind 14-7, it could have been easy to have that "here we go again" type of mentality.

To MSU's credit, it was able to shake off adversity, create success and send the seniors out the right way.

McKinney said the Bulldogs put the losses out of their mind and put all of their energy into preparing for the Razorbacks.

"We never look in the past," McKinney said. "Every day in practice, we're looking forward, trying to get better and focus on the gameplan with whoever we're playing."

MSU improved its record to 8-3 and perhaps with it, the bowl situation.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl watched the Bulldogs once again and really seem interested. A victory over Ole Miss next week could lock up a bid to the Atlanta-based game on New Year's Eve.

MSU has put itself in a very good position to have a special ending to the season.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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