STARKVILLE, Miss. – One day after garnering a bid to play in the 55th AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Mississippi State had three players earn All-SEC honors from the Associated Press.
Senior offensive lineman Gabe Jackson earned first-team All-SEC accolades, while freshman defensive lineman Chris Jones and senior defensive back Nickoe Whitley were honorable mention selections. Jackson earned his third AP All-SEC honor while the selections were the first for Jones and Whitley.
Jackson is the first Bulldog with three SEC yearly honors since Derek Pegues was a three-time All-SEC pick from 2006-08.
“Our whole team has worked hard all year and to receive an award like this is special,” Jackson said.
The award haul continues for Jackson, who last week received the C Spire Conerly Trophy winner as top player in the state of Mississippi, becoming the first offensive lineman to earn the award. The Liberty, Miss., native was also tabbed as the Kent Hull Award recipient as top offensive lineman in Mississippi.
On the field, Jackson graded out at 88 percent with three knockdowns against No. 1 Alabama a week after being graded at 89 percent with four knockdowns on the road at No. 11 Texas A&M. Jackson is helping MSU to one of its best offensive seasons in program history, averaging 426.2 yards a game, on pace to shatter the single-season record of 422.0 yards per contest, set in 1982. The Bulldogs’ 5,114 total yards are good for second on the program’s single-season chart behind the 2010 squad’s 5,217 yards.
Jones has booked a team-high 10 quarterback hurries and 7.0 tackles for lost yardage during his debut campaign. The Houston, Miss., product tallied his eighth quarterback hurry in SEC action against Ole Miss, the most by an MSU player during league action in the Dan Mullen era. Jones added a personal-best 2.0 tackles for lost yardage against the Rebels, including his third sack of the campaign.
Versus No. 1 Alabama, Jones earned his second sack of the season, dragging down AJ McCarron for a seven-yard loss in the opening quarter. A month earlier against LSU, Jones broke out with career-best game, recording a personal-best four tackles, including two TFL and his first career sack, on Zach Mettenberger for a 10-yard loss during the second quarter.
Whitley made two of the biggest defensive plays for the Bulldogs all season with a pair of forced fumbles. He halted a potential game-winning drive by Arkansas and ended the Egg Bowl by jarring the ball away from Bo Wallace.
He was tabbed the Dec. 2 Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week following his Egg Bowl heroics. A native of Jackson, Miss., Whitley is the FBS active leader in career interceptions with 15 and owns 229 career tackles.
He also excelled against then No. 1 Alabama with two touchdowns-saving tackles, chasing down T.J. Yeldon at the MSU 28-yard line during the Crimson Tide’s final drive of the opening half and breaking up a pass in the end zone on the Crimson Tide’s first play of the fourth quarter.