Mississippi State’s football team handed Northwestern the Gator Bowl victory despite the Wildcats’ attempt to give it right back.
The Bulldogs fell by the score of 34-20 in an ugly game which both sides combined for seven interceptions, four of which were contributed by Mississippi State’s Tyler Russell. ESPN’s Stats & Information reported just how uncharacteristic their sloppy play was.
During its first 11 games this season, Mississippi State only had four passes intercepted. The Bulldogs' first two drives in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl have both ended with an interception.
There were Bulldogs, however, who played phenomenal despite their letdown. Here are the best of the bunch.
RB Josh Robinson
If Robinson’s performance was foreshadowing of his career to come, Mississippi State’s rushing attack has a bright future.
The freshman halfback only carried the football 48 times this season for 244 yards, but one couldn’t tell that he was inexperienced against Northwestern. He made the most of his seven carries rushing for a game high 91 yards which included a 59-yard scamper.
Expect big things from the 5’9”, 215-pound back in 2013.
DB Nickoe Whitley
Going into the Gator Bowl, “ball hawk” wouldn’t have been the best term to describe Whitley.
The shoe fits after his performance on New Year’s Day, though.
In the regular season, he only picked off one pass. He was, however, second on the Bulldogs in solo tackles with 44.
Against Northwestern, Whitley didn’t record a single take down, but instead finished with two interceptions. The turnovers that he, as well as teammate Denico Autry, forced kept Mississippi State in the game despite Russell’s horrific performance. Like Robinson, Whitley will return next season and be a key cog in the Bulldogs' effort to rebound from their disappointing 2012 campaign.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.