Northwestern's offense received a much-needed spark when Kain Colter converted a third down with a precise laser beam to Christian Jones, who caught it squatted on the ground, just past the first-down marker. The drive ended shortly thereafter when Colter tossed a jump ball to Kyle Prater along the right sideline. Those are the balls Prater was brought in to win. Instead, Nickoe Whitley cleared him out of the way to record the leaping pick. Prater has to control that airspace in the future.
Mississippi State drove most of the way down the field, based on a strong running game. Defensive end Quentin Williams stemmed the Bulldogs' momentum with a disruptive tackle for loss in the backfield, as he reached LaDarius Perkins at the exact same time the ball did, and Williams brought him down for a five-yard loss. The Bulldogs made sure it wasn't all for naught, as holder Chris Cameron corralled the high snap and kicker Devon Bell curled a 47-yarder through to tie the score at 13.
NORTHWESTERN 13 - MISSISSIPPI STATE 13
Trevor Siemian started off the Wildcats' second drive of the half with a bad throw off of his back foot to Venric Mark. He showcased unusual mobility, however, when he twisted out of a sack and found Rashad Lawrence running in toward the sideline for a first down. The ice broken, he found Demetrius Fields crossing over the middle to push Northwestern past midfield. He followed with a high pass downfield to Dan Vitale, who reached up beautifully and held on despite taking a hard fall backwards. Future Land of Lincoln senator Tyris Jones capped off the drive with a plummet up the middle. Momentum literally came out of nowhere for the Wildcats, as a desperate third down heave to the left sideline suddenly sparked Northwestern's aerial attack.
NORTHWESTERN 20 - MISSISSIPPI STATE 13
Northwestern pinned Mississippi State following an outstanding tackle through the block by C.J. Bryant, but Josh Robinson erased the deficit with an immediate first-down plunge up the middle. Mississippi State continued to escape tackles on a eight-yard run by LaDarius Perkins. Tyler Russell was forced out of the pocket on second down and was eventually forced to the sideline, flinging the ball away as he fell out. On third-and-two, Perkins rumbled up the middle, but tremendous forward pressure led by Damien Proby, stuffed him.
Northwestern may not have been able to take a two-touchdown lead, but Trevor Siemian proved he could do more than simply pass the ball. He apparently can punt too. With his ill-advised throw down the left sideline, Siemian may have left Tony Jones far behind with his booming 50-yard throw, but when Nickoe Whitey picked it off and then proceeded to spike the ball for a 15-yard penalty, it ended up as well as any Brandon Williams punt ever did, putting the Bulldogs deep in their own territory.
The Bulldogs made little ground on their drive. On their final third-and-long, the short receiver fell down, and the long receivers were well covered, forcing Russell to hang on as the defense barraged him. He had the ball out by his hip and it easily could have been stripped away but Tyler Scott was only able to get the sack, not the strip, allowing the Bulldogs to punt the ball away.
Venric Mark finally broke his silence with a 13-yard run around the left end. He had the speed to finish the route and then fought through a couple of arm tackles to pick up a first down. It was really Mark's first successful run of the half. Meanwhile, Siemian came back to find Vitale crossing over the middle, and Vitale picked up the first down. Vitale has had a huge game for Northwestern. Siemian then continued his unusually mobile day with a run around the left end, diving ahead to pick up another first down in Bulldogs' territory. Then, Colter had one of his best rushes of the game, a pivotal rush to insure points for Northwestern. With all of his receivers marked and his blockers holding the Bulldogs' light rush well, Colter took off around the left end, before twisting back toward the middle for a huge gain. Trevor Siemian capped the drive behind center, as he faked the handoff beautifully, so effectively that eight of the Bulldogs' 11 defenders ran right, only to watch Siemian run into the end zone untouched.
NORTHWESTERN 27 - MISSISSIPPI STATE 13
END OF THIRD QUARTER