Stowers sparks Bulldogs rally, rout

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Dicenzo Miller dives into the end zone for the final yards of a 51-yard touchdown, MSU’s first of the night. (The Vicksburg Post/MARK THORNTON)

[09/04/01]STARKVILLE Of all the high-profile players at Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium Monday night, it was a former Vicksburg High basketball player who stole the show.

Curtis Stowers, who played only basketball and track for Vicksburg through his sophomore year, blocked a punt late in the third quarter that was returned for a touchdown as the Bulldogs reeled off 30 unanswered points in a 30-10 drubbing of Memphis.

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“I saw the way he was moving and his tendencies,” Stowers said of freshman deep snapper Gene Frederic. “I knew his snap count. Coach told us at halftime we needed a big play and we got one.”

Stowers used a swim move around the freshman, then charged straight up the middle. Nathan Jackson recovered the block at the Memphis 6, then walked untouched into the end zone for a 14-10 MSU lead.

“The center was probably so concerned because he had three bad snaps in a row, that he didn’t protect,” said Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill, whose team improved to 29-11 over the Tigers (0-1). “We have some very good people there and it’s hard not to get a rush.”

Later in the game, Memphis punter James Gaither, another freshman, had a second punt blocked by the outside rush.

“Those guys we have are so fast on the outside it’s hard to pick which of us to block,” Stowers said. “If they concentrate on the outside guys, they are leaving the middle open.”

Stowers, who moved to Savannah, Ga., after his sophomore year at VHS, played football in Georgia before walking on to Mississippi State. His father, Curtis Stowers Sr., was a star linebacker there in the early 1980s.

“I never wanted to leave Vicksburg,” said the younger Stowers, now a 6-foot-2, 225-pound reserve linebacker.

While a Gator, Stowers ran track with Memphis receiver Bunkie Perkins. But even Perkins’ speed couldn’t keep his Tigers in the game long after Stowers’ heroics.

Perkins, who starred at VHS and Hinds, had five catches for 68 yards and caught his first touchdown since joining the Tigers a year ago.

Perkins’ 18-yard TD catch in the left corner of the end zone gave Memphis a 10-0 lead with 10:44 left in the third quarter.

“Individual goals are good, but I’m looking out for the team,” said Perkins, who had to leave the field briefly in the third quarter because of dehydration. “We took a 10-0 lead and lost … I knew they wouldn’t quit.”

Perkins’ sliding 31-yard grab in the middle of the field helped set up Ryan White’s 33-yard field goal late in the second quarter for the only score of a sloppy first half.

The Tigers held on to their 3-0 lead as the Bulldogs fumbled three times in the first half twice in Memphis territory.

“It wasn’t anything they were doing to stop us, it was us stopping ourselves,” Sherrill said. “But give Memphis credit, their defense came ready to play tonight.”

Following an exchange of punts, MSU quarterback Wayne Madkin connected with Dicenzo Miller on a 51-yard scoring pass for the Bulldogs’ first score with 4:34 left in the third.

Four plays later, Stowers’ block gave MSU the lead for good.

“That was pretty furious out there,” said safety Josh Morgan, a former Warren Central standout who had a tackle and a fumble recovery. “When we were down 3-0, we had a lot of guys moping around on the sidelines, but after Dicenzo’s touchdown, the whole attitude of the sideline changed.”

Miller led all rushers with 108 yards on 12 carries. He added a second touchdown in a fourth-quarter flurry that saw MSU score 16 points.

Madkin hit Justin Jenkins on a 22-yard corner route six minutes into the quarter for the final TD.

Madkin was 12 of 22 for 174 yards and two scores and the Mississippi State defense held Memphis to just 162 total yards.

Memphis’ Tommy West, making his debut as head coach, said he was glad Perkins had a good game in his home state, but he expects more.

“He’s going to have to become more of a player for us than he was tonight,” West said.

Perkins wasn’t satisfied either, though he was happy to finally get in the end zone in a Tigers uniform.

“I know what I can do,” he said. “I’ve got high expectations now.

“We’ve got some improving to do, but who knows, maybe we’ll come back and go 11-1.”