FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — True freshman Will Rogers scored his first rushing touchdown of the season and had a 13-yard TD pass to lead Mississippi State past No. 22 Tulsa 28-26 on Thursday in the Armed Forces Bowl, which ended in a massive brawl.
Minutes after the game ended following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Mississippi State on a late onside kick as Tulsa tried to make a comeback, the teams became involved in a large melee on the field. Tulsa coach Greg Montgomery said sophomore safety Kendarin Ray, who was helped off the field after being at the bottom of a dogpile during a second scrum, was treated for “some sort of concussion.”
“I’m not sure what exactly caused that,” Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said. “It was something before the game, too. We’ve never had any problem with that the entire season, so I can only guess without seeing the film.”
Montgomery said: “The one thing I’ll say is our program, our guys, we’re a team that are going to stand up for each other and we’re going to battle. We talk about faith, family, football and family’s going to take care of family. We’re a team that has battled all year long. We battled again today. From that standpoint, our guys are going to continue to protect each other and go from there.”
Jo’quavious Marks scored a rushing touchdown on the game’s first possession and Emmanuel Forbes returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown for the Bulldogs (4-7), who finished the season with a second straight win in a game played at TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium in steady rain and temperatures in the upper 30s.
Forbes’ third-quarter touchdown was initially called back on an illegal blocking penalty, but the Big Ten Conference officiating crew reversed its ruling to a penalty on Tulsa.
Deneric Prince and Corey Taylor II scored rushing touchdowns, Zach Smith had a 15-yard TD pass to Keylon Stokes and Zack Long kicked field goals of 27 and 33 yards for Tulsa (6-3, No. 24 CFP).
Tulsa pulled to within 21-19 with 12:30 left on Taylor’s 5-yard run, but Smith’s two-point conversion pass intended for Stokes was broken up in the end zone. Mississippi State answered with Rogers’ 13-yard throw to Lideatrick “Tulu” Griffin to go ahead 28-19.
Smith’s 15-yard scoring pass to Stokes came with 1:23 to play. Long then attempted an onside kick, which was recovered by the Bulldogs at the Mississippi State 47 and Erroll Thompson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Tulsa: A team that was picked to finish ninth in the 11-team American Athletic Conference played in the league championship game, losing to Cincinnati on a last-second field goal. The Golden Hurricane will wait to see if they finish in the final AP Top 25 of the season for the first time since 2010.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs played in their school-record 11th consecutive bowl thanks to pandemic qualification exemptions. The four wins are the Bulldogs’ fewest since 2008, the last of Sylvester Croom’s five seasons coaching in Starkville.
Tulsa: Among the seniors who have committed to returning in 2021 are running back Shamari Brooks, fifth in program career rushing despite missing all of 2020 with an ACL injury, and free safety TieNeal Martin. Next season, the Golden Hurricane will visit Oklahoma State and Ohio State.
Mississippi State: For all of Leach’s Air Raid offenses at various stops, Rogers was his first true freshman quarterback. The Bulldogs’ Southeastern Conference home schedule should include visits by Alabama and Mississippi.