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McLaurin Stars in TaxSlayer Bowl

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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The 6'2'', 215 pound junior became the first player ever to intercept Jackson three times.

In what may have been Lamar Jackson's final college game, it was Mississippi State's defense, most specifically safety Mark McLaurin, that was the story in a 31-27 TaxSlayer Bowl triumph. Overall, the Bulldogs held Jackson to 41.9% passing, intercepted him four times and sacked him six more. Mississippi State limited Louisville to just 358 total yards, the Cardinals' season low by far. Facing one of the most dynamic talents in college football history, McLaurin walked off the field with a victory, MVP honors and a performance for the ages.

The 6'2'', 215 pound junior became the first player ever to intercept Jackson three times.

"We knew what they liked to do. Studied him for a long time," McLaurin nodded of Jackson post-game. "We just knew to play and react and have fun."

Based on return yards, alone, McLaurin would have been Louisville's second-leading receiver. Two of his interceptions came in the final period. McLaurin's final pick, coming late in the fourth quarter at the MSU 34-yard line, helped preserve the win. Few moments, this season for MSU, have been bigger.

"Coach made a great play call at the end. D-line got great movement, especially on the quarterback. The corner ran a blitz. He got home. I seen the slant. I really didn't think he was going to throw it," McLaurin explained. "I stepped up. Just seen it."

In addition to his three picks, McLaurin led the team with 9.5 tackles, a pass break-up and a half a tackle for loss against Louisville. He was all over the field, dominating in both rush and pass defense. McLaurin's individual performance stands as one of the game's top defensive efforts of this year.

On the season, McLaurin finishes as Mississippi State's number one tackler and interception leader; his six picks currently top the SEC. 

McLaurin, also an honor student in the classroom, has paced the Bulldogs on the field and off. He and the Bulldogs have considerable momentum moving forward. What McLaurin did on Saturday in Jacksonville will be remembered for a long time.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports