Posted: Friday December 31, 1999 01:45 AM
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- After Mississippi State's defense bailed out a sputtering offense for three periods, quarterback Wayne Madkin returned the favor in the fourth quarter.
Madkin scored on a two-yard run and tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Dontae Walker as 16th-ranked Mississippi State overcame a Peach Bowl-record 21 penalties to reach 10 wins for the second time in school history with a 17-7 victory over Clemson.
The Bulldogs ended an 18-year bowl drought and joined the 1940 squad as the only Mississippi State teams to win 10 games in a season.
It was Mississippi State's first postseason victory since defeating Kansas, 10-0, in the 1981 Hall of Fame Bowl. The Bulldogs had lost four straight bowl games, including a 38-11 setback to Texas in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day.
"Wayne played excellently," Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill said. "He made two big, big plays and showed his athleticism. The biggest thing that Wayne did was not turn the ball over. We talked about that -- protecting the ball -- and he's improved every week."
Madkin completed 17-of-36 passes for 178 yards and was the Bulldogs' top rusher with 37 yards on five carries.
Nursing a 3-0 lead, linebacker Eugene Clinton's interception gave the Bulldogs a first down at the Clemson 43 six seconds into the fourth quarter.
Mississippi State went the distance in 10 plays to increase its lead to 10-0, benefiting from two crucial pass interference penalties. On 3rd-and-21 from the 23, cornerback Alex Ardley was called for interfering for Huntington, giving the Bulldogs a first down at the 14.
On 3rd-and-10, cornerback Dexter Polite was whistled in the end zone, resulting in a 1st-and-goal at the 2. Two plays later, Madkin avoided a sack and scored around right end.
Mississippi State often was its own worst enemy, accumulating 188 yards in penalties. But the Bulldogs' top-ranked defense blanked Clemson until quarterback Brandon Streeter scored on a one-yard keeper to pull the Tigers within 10-7 with 8:15 remaining.
Streeter was 24-of-50 for 301 yards but was picked off four times. Mississippi State tied a Peach Bowl record with five interceptions.
The Bulldogs answered Streeter's score with an eight-play, 57-yard drive and restored a 10-point lead on Madkin's TD toss to Walker with 4:31 to play.
"I thought that defensively we'd be able to do some things, which we did," Sherrill said. "If we're not going to give the ball up and make them play the length of the field, I felt very confident about it."
Clemson suffered a blow when leading rusher Travis Zachery left in the first quarter with a dislocated right elbow. Rambert Bernard picked up the slack for the Tigers with 62 yards on 14 carries.
Clemson outgained Mississippi State in the first quarter, 156 yards to 46 but missed a golden opportunity to take the lead as cornerback Robert Bean blocked Tony Lazzara's 25-yard field goal attempt with one minute to go in the period.
"I don't think the missed field goal was as crucial as the 3rd-and-20 pass interference, and then a 3rd-and-10 on what looked like a ghost pass interference on the replay," Tigers coach Tommy Bowden said.
Clemson marched to the Mississippi State 27 early in the second quarter but linebacker Ashley Cooper halted the drive with an interception at the Bulldogs 17, resulting in the first scoreless first half in Peach Bowl history.
Mississippi State finally broke through on Scott Westerfield's 39-yard field goal 2:21 into the third quarter.
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