By DANNY P. SMITH
It was obvious how much beating Louisiana Tech meant to Mississippi State's Quentin Saulsberry.
As a redshirt freshman in 2008, Saulsberry started 12 games at right tackle for MSU.
His first assignment was to go against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in Ruston, La.
It wasn't a fond memory for Saulsberry as State lost a 22-14 decision that day.
On Saturday night, Saulsberry had a smile on his face after MSU defeated Louisiana Tech 26-20 in overtime.
Saulsberry admitted that the 2008 loss was in his thoughts all week, but knew that there was more at stake than just revenge.
"You have to strive for perfection for everything you do," Saulsberry said. "It was in the back of our mind that we owe this team, but at the same time, it's a game. You've got to execute the gameplan and not let your emotions ride over it."
After coming off a Liberty Bowl win and finishing with an 8-5 record in 2007, State had high expectations going into the next year, sort of like this season.
MSU was stunned by Tech and it started a string of negative occurrences.
The Bulldogs from Starkville only won one of their first five games that season and ended with a 4-8 overall record. MSU lost to Ole Miss 45-0 to end 2008 and it turned out to be Sylvester Croom's final year as head coach.
Saulsberry endured two-straight losing seasons for State and a coaching change.
He was rewarded last year with a nine-win campaign and an impressive victory against Michigan in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1.
MSU senior safety Wade Bonner also played in the 2008 loss against Louisiana Tech as a kick returner.
Even though Bonner returned three kicks against Louisiana Tech in the loss for 64 yards and a 21.3-yard average, he lost a fumble on one of those returns.
Bonner made up for that miscue three years ago by recovering a fumble against the visiting Bulldogs on Saturday.
In the third quarter, Bonner was downfield after a 41-yard punt by Baker Swedenburg and recovered a football that bounced off Tech returner Blasher Saintvil.
The play helped MSU get in position to get a 24-yard field goal by Derek DePasquale with 5:22 left in the third quarter for a 20-17 lead.
Saturday's game was very similar to the one State lost in Ruston three years ago, only this time MSU found a way to win.
Saulsberry doesn't underestimate the value of a victory, no matter how tough, how easy or who it's against.
"Every Saturday, you've got to play," Saulsberry said. "Those guys are on scholarship and they are going to play hard too."
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.