STARKVILLE, Miss. (WVLT) -- Tennessee's performance against Mississippi State Saturday closely resembled the town in which the game was played -- not exactly beautiful, but relatively adequate and efficient.
The Vols caged the Bulldogs, 33-21, collaring State's rushing attack in the second half and moving the ball effectively against a vaunted defensive front.
Lucas Taylor led the Vols' offense with 11 catches for 189 yards and a score, the most receiving yards by a Vol since Kelley Washington hauled in 197 yards against Rutgers in 2002.
Arian Foster sliced through the Bulldog defense all day long, finishing with 139 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Montario Hardesty added 79 yards as Tennessee rumbled for 259 yards on the ground.
Tennessee (4-2, 2-1 SEC) scored on its first drive of the game on a five-yard playaction pass to Chris Brown. The Bulldogs (4-3, 1-3 SEC) stormed back for two scores, but Ainge threw a 51-yard fly pattern to Lucas Taylor -- his longest pass of the season -- to tie the game at 14 midway through the second quarter.
A Daniel Lincoln field goal gave Tennessee a 17-14 halftime lead.
The Vols took the second-half kickoff and stormed down the field, scoring on a Foster touchdown to go up, 24-14. After State answered with a touchdown of its own, Daniel Lincoln made three field goals, putting the game out of reach of Sylvester Croom's squad and giving Tennessee its fourth win of the season.
A detailed game summary follows.
Daniel Lincoln's fourth field goal of the game, a 43-yarder, padded Tennessee's lead, making the score 33-21 with 2:32 left in the game.
Jonathan Hefney broke up a Mississippi State fourth-down pass with over four minutes left in the game, allowing Tennessee to take over inside Bulldog territory. Montario Hardesty opened the Vols' drive with a ten-yard run, putting Tennessee in scoring position.
Daniel Lincoln made a 33-yard field goal with 5:45 left in the game, putting the Vols up by two possessions, 30-21.
The Vols forced a Mississippi State three-and-out and took over at their own 21 after the State punt. They drove down to the Bulldog 16, then brought in Lincoln for the 33-yard kick.
The Vols held Mississippi State on fourth down at the Vols' 35, taking over on downs with just over 13 minutes left in the game.
But Ainge and the Vols could not capitalize. On third down, Ainge threw a deep pass off his back foot to Josh Briscoe, but the Mississippi State defender intercepted the jump ball at the Bulldogs 37.
The Vols forced a three-and-out and took over at their own 21 after the State punt. They drove down to the Bulldog 16, then brought in Lincoln for the 33-yard kick.
Daniel Lincoln made a 29-yard field goal, his second of the game, to give Tennessee a 27-21 lead with 3:47 left in the third quarter.
A 24-yard completion from Erik Ainge to Lucas Taylor was the drive's key play, putting the Vols in scoring position. On third-and-7 from the State 12, Ainge overthrew Taylor in the end zone, forcing the Lincoln kick.
Freshman quarterback Wesley Carroll fired a pass to Jamayel Smith in the back of the end zone, who tiptoed in the corner for the score to get Mississippi State back within three points.
The Bulldogs returned the Tennessee kickoff to their own 40, then rode Anthony Dixon's legs and Carroll's arm down the field, scoring on third down to make the score 24-21.
Arian Foster lunged over right guard and into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown to give Tennessee a 24-14 lead over Mississippi State with 12:12 left in the third quarter in Starkville.
Tennessee took the second-half kickoff and drove right down the field, traveling deep into Mississippi State territory thanks to a 39-yard Arian Foster run.
Tennessee failed to convert on third-and-12 at the Bulldog 17, but an unnecessary roughness penalty on State extended the Vols' series. On the next play, Montario Hardesty slashed down to the Bulldog one-yard-line, where he fumbled the football into the end zone. Tennessee recovered, but Hardesty was ruled down at the one, setting up second-and-goal.
The #25th ranked Tennessee Volunteers and Mississippi State have kicked off their SEC tilt in Starkville.
For the third straight game, Tennessee's opening drive turns into points. Erik Ainge finds tight end Chris Brown for a three yard touchdown pass, to take an early 7-0 lead. Ainge was 4-4 for 64 yards on the drive. The touchdown drive was 9 plays, covering 73 yards, taking 2:53 off the clock
It marked the third straight game the Vols scored on their opening drive.
But after Mississippi State backed up the Vols near their own endzone, Tennessee had to punt. And when the Bulldogs took over, it only took 3 plays for MSU to score. Wesley Carroll hit Tony Burks on a 38 yard touchdown pass, to tie things up 7-7.
First play of the second quarter, Mississippi State takes the lead. Running back Anthony Dixon finds the endzone from 30 yards out, to put the Dogs on top 14-7.
Midway thru the second quarter, Ainge and company would go back to work. The senior quarterback threw a perfect pass to Lucas Taylor, when all was said and done, Ainge-to-Taylor turned into a 51 yard TD pass to tie game 14-14. The 51 yard pass is the longest pass play this season for Ainge.
With :02 seconds to play in the half, Daniel Lincoln hit a 47 yard field goal to break the tie; so the Vols went to the locker room with a 17-14 lead.
Keep it at volunteertv.com for continues updates; and be sure to tune into WVLT-Volunteer TV tonight at 7 p.m. for your I'm All-Vol Postgame Report.