Scores
AutoZone LIBERTY BOWL

Final

Rice 7

(10-4, 7-1 C-USA)

Mississippi St 44

(7-6, 3-5 SEC)

Coverage: ESPN

4:00 PM ET, December 31, 2013

Liberty Bowl, MEMPHIS, TN

1 2 3 4 T
RICE 7 0 0 07
MSST 7 20 14 344

Top Performers

Passing: D. Prescott (MSST) - 283 YDS, 3 TD

Rushing: D. Prescott (MSST) - 14 CAR, 78 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: J. Lewis (MSST) - 9 REC, 220 YDS

Mississippi State pounds Rice in Liberty Bowl

Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Dak Prescott delivered a performance that would have made his mother proud.

Prescott threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more scores Tuesday as Mississippi State trounced Rice 44-7 in the most one-sided AutoZone Liberty Bowl victory in the game's 55-year history. The sophomore quarterback delivered arguably the finest performance of his career less than two months after his mother, Peggy, died of cancer.

"It's really just been about Mississippi State University and this football team comforting me, being there for me and just helping me and making what I would say is the hardest thing in my life easier," Prescott said.

Mississippi State (7-6) wrapped up its fourth straight winning season and prevented Rice (10-4) from winning bowl games in back-to-back years for the first time. All of Mississippi State's losses this season came against teams currently in the Top 25: No. 13 Oklahoma State, No. 2 Auburn, No. 14 LSU, No. 8 South Carolina, No. 20 Texas A&M and No. 3 Alabama.

The Bulldogs became bowl eligible by closing the regular season with consecutive overtime victories over Arkansas and Ole Miss. This marks the first time since 1974 that Mississippi State has closed a season with three straight wins.

"They stuck together," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. "They battled. They fought. They fought through unbelievable injuries and adversity throughout the year."

Nobody faced more adversity than Prescott, who set a Liberty Bowl record by accounting for five touchdowns. Prescott was 17 of 28 for 283 yards passing and also ran for 78 yards on 14 carries.

Prescott's performance delighted a partisan crowd of 57,846 and capped a triumphant late-season performance amid personal tragedy for the sophomore quarterback. Prescott came off the bench in the fourth quarter to lead Mississippi State to a 17-10 overtime victory over Ole Miss last month that earned the Bulldogs a bowl bid. .

Although Prescott and senior Tyler Russell had shared quarterback duties throughout the regular season, Prescott had the job to himself in the Liberty Bowl while Russell recovered from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Prescott responded better than anyone could have reasonably imagined.

Prescott thanked his teammates, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, university President Mark Keenum and the entire Mississippi State community for sticking with him and helping him persevere.

"It just allows me to go out there and just play football in peace and be at ease," Prescott said.

Prescott wasn't Mississippi State's only star on a night when the Bulldogs outgained Rice 533-145 and scored the game's final 44 points.

Mississippi State's Jameon Lewis caught nine passes for 220 yards to break the Liberty Bowl receiving record held by Houston's Vincent Marshall, who had 201 yards in a 44-36 loss to South Carolina in 2006. Lewis also set the school single-game record.

"When he has the ball in his hands, he's special," Mullen said.

The Bulldogs also played dominant defense.

Rice had won the Conference USA title -- its first outright league championship of any kind since 1957 -- by relying on a rushing attack that was ranked 16th among all Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Rice gained only 61 yards rushing -- 179 below its season average -- on 32 carries against Mississippi State. Charles Ross, who entered the day having rushed for 1,252 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, was held to 28 yards on 10 carries.

"We knew coming into this game we were going to have to play our best to win it," Rice coach David Bailiff said. "We didn't."

Rice took an early lead on Ross' 1-yard touchdown run, but Mississippi State took control by reaching the end zone on six of its next seven possessions. Prescott threw first-half touchdown passes to LaDarius Perkins, Malcolm Johnson and Artimus Samuel before running for two scores in the third quarter.

The Liberty Bowl is about a three-hour drive from Mississippi State's campus, and the proximity created a home-game atmosphere for the Bulldogs. At least 90 percent of the fans appeared to be wearing Mississippi State maroon.

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Team Stat Comparison

 
RICE
MSST
1st Downs727
Total Yards145533
Passing84294
Rushing61239
Penalties3-182-30
3rd Down Conversions4-148-12
4th Down Conversions1-20-1
Turnovers11
Possession24:4235:18

Passing Leaders

RiceC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
McHargue8/15845.600
Mississippi StateC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Prescott17/2828310.130

Rushing Leaders

RiceCARYDSAVGTDLG
Ross10282.817
Davis7213.008
Mississippi StateCARYDSAVGTDLG
Prescott14785.6219
Perkins13473.6014

Receiving Leaders

RiceRECYDSAVGTDLG
Parks33812.7018
Cella11919.0019
Mississippi StateRECYDSAVGTDLG
Lewis922024.4065
Wilson33712.3026

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERRICEMSST
TD06:41Charles Ross 1 Yd Run (Chris Boswell Kick)
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70
TD02:01LaDarius Perkins 10 Yd Pass From Dak Prescott (Evan Sobiesk Kick)
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77
SECOND QUARTERRICEMSST
TD09:49Ashton Shumpert 1 Yd Run (Evan Sobiesk Kick)
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714
TD04:32Malcolm Johnson 13 Yd Pass From Dak Prescott (Pat Blocked)
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720
TD00:10Artimas Samuel 4 Yd Pass From Dak Prescott (Evan Sobiesk Kick)
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727
THIRD QUARTERRICEMSST
TD07:25Dak Prescott 5 Yd Run (Evan Sobiesk Kick)
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734
TD01:42Dak Prescott 11 Yd Run (Evan Sobiesk Kick)
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741
FOURTH QUARTERRICEMSST
FG04:45Taylor Earhart 19 Yd
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744

Research Notes

Jameon Lewis set the Liberty Bowl record and Mississippi State school record with 220 receiving yards in Tuesday's win over Rice.
  [+]
With its 37-point win over Rice (44-7), Mississippi State had its 2nd-biggest margin of victory in a bowl game. The Bulldogs' biggest win in a bowl is their 38-point Gator Bowl win over Michigan in the 2010-11 season (52-14). With the exception of that win over Michigan, none of Mississippi State's previous 9 bowl wins had come by more than 12 points.
Dak Prescott threw for 228 yards in the first half - that's the most yards he's thrown for in a half in his career (previous high: 207 in first half vs Troy earlier this season). His high for a game is 268 pass yards, earlier this season against Kentucky. Prescott threw for three touchdowns in the first half, already setting a career high for an entire game.
Charles Ross ran for his 15th touchdown of the season, snapping a tie with Trevor Cobb in 1991 for the most rushing touchdowns in a season in Rice history.
Mississippi State's Jameon Lewis has 181 receiving yards in the first half of the Liberty Bowl. No Mississippi State player has had more than 181 receiving yards in an entire game since Jamavel Smith had 208 yards against Arkansas on November 17, 2007.

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