Originally created 11/27/98

Mississippi State wins right to conference championship



OXFORD, Miss. -- Despite his obvious pain, James Johnson ran for two short touchdowns as No. 25 Mississippi State beat Mississippi 28-6 Thursday night to earn a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship.

Johnson, already limited and grimacing because of a groin injury, had TD runs of 2 and 1 yards before halftime. He never returned after his second TD, when he dived over from the 1 and separated his shoulder on the play that gave State (8-3, 6-2) a 14-3 lead.

The Bulldogs, whose only SEC title was in 1941, will play top-ranked Tennessee in the league's championship on Dec. 5.

On the opening drive, Ole Miss (6-5, 3-5) went 64 yards on 12 plays to set up Carlisle McGee's 40-yard field goal.

While becoming only the second Ole Miss running back to rush for 1,000 yards, sophomore Deuce McAllister was about the only effective offense for the Rebels. He had 39 yards rushing on the opening drive and accounted for 177 yards.

With starting quarterback Romaro Miller sidelined by a broken collarbone, freshman walk-on David Morris was forced into his first start. Morris was 9-of-24 passing for 75 yards with three interceptions, the last returned 30 yards for a touchdown by Tim Nelson with 2:36 left.

Johnson didn't start, but came in on the second series and scored on a 2-yard touchdown with 4:27 left in the first quarter. After a 39-yard pass play and an Ole Miss penalty that nullified a Johnson fumble, Johnson scored on his third straight carry.

The second TD, on fourth-and-goal, capped State's longest drive of the season, a 15-play, 98-yard effort. Eight plays before scoring, Johnson left the field grimacing in pain because of the groin injury.

With a school-record 1,345 yards, Johnson leads the SEC in rushing, 160 yards ahead of Kevin Faulk of LSU, which plays today against Arkansas. No Mississippi State back has ever won the SEC rushing title.

Ole Miss was limited to field goals of 40 and 22 yards by Carlisle McGee.

Mississippi State extended its lead to 21-6 late in the third quarter when freshman Wayne Madkin threw a short screen pass to Dicenzo Miller, who got two downfield blocks from offensive linemen and scored untouched from 28 yards out.

With its first SEC West title, Mississippi State makes up for a late-season collapse in 1997. Needing to beat both Arkansas and Ole Miss, the Bulldogs lost both games, missing out on the SEC championship and the postseason.

Last Saturday, State beat Arkansas 22-21, taking control of the SEC West race.