STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- Omarr Conner threw two of his
career-high four touchdown passes to freshman Keon Humphries, and
Mississippi State routed Murray State 38-6 on Saturday night in a
game played days after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the region.
Jerious Norwood rushed for 123 yards on 16 carries for the
Bulldogs (1-0), who outgained the Racers 482-229 and avoided losing
to a Division I-AA team for the second straight season.
Conner was 17-of-24 passing for 233 yards in 2½ quarters with
touchdowns to Humphries covering 49 and 34 yards.
The game's prelude had a somber tone: Instead of running onto
the field, coach Sylvester Croom and the Bulldogs walked solemnly
to the sideline, with their helmets under their right arms, and the
scoreboard showed a tribute to Katrina's victims. Mississippi State
officials said about 2,000 evacuees claimed free tickets to the
Conner gave them a good show.
His previous best of two touchdown passes came last season
against Arkansas, but he surpassed that by adding touchdowns
covering 37 yards to Tee Milons and 8 yards to Eric Butler. He
became the first Mississippi State player with four touchdown
passes in a game since Derrick Taite did it a decade ago against
Croom won his second straight opener at Mississippi State, but
it had a vastly different feel than last year, when the nation was
caught up in the buzz surrounding the debut of the first black head
football coach in SEC history.
Less than a week ago, Katrina made a deadly march across the
Gulf Coast and through Mississippi, and some players said they
wanted to give the mournful state a reason to smile again.
They did, even if for a while it wasn't easy. The Bulldogs, who
lost to I-AA Maine in one of last season's biggest upsets, at times
looked capable of yet another embarrassing loss.
But they took advantage of two miscues by Murray State (0-1) to
break this one open.
The Racers led 9-3 midway through the second quarter but a
defensive holding penalty allowed Mississippi State to prolong a
drive. Three plays later, the Bulldogs took the lead for good on
Conner's touchdown pass to Milons.
Murray State fumbled away its next possession, Mississippi State
recovered and on the following play Conner hit Humphries from 49
yards out to make it 17-6.
Humphries finished his first college game with five catches for
Ken Topps, a Mississippi State transfer, made his first career
start for Murray State and gave his old team fits in the first
half, repeatedly escaping trouble by sidestepping and outrunning
the Bulldogs. But they eventually figured out their old teammate
and held the Racers to 31 total yards in the second half.
Nick Turner, Mississippi State's leading rusher two seasons ago
who was kicked off the team last year by Croom, was one of three
players suspended by coach Joe Pannunzio.
Chad Cook led the Racers with 57 yards rushing and a 13-yard