STARKVILLE, MISS. (AP) - Mississippi State linebacker Chris Hughes has been suspended one game by the Southeastern Conference for his hit to the head of a defenseless player during Saturday's 29-24 victory over Alabama-Birmingham.
After reviewing tape from the game, the SEC determined Hughes' hit on UAB receiver Frantrell Forrest with 26 seconds left in the second quarter was "flagrant" and "unsportsmanlike." There was no penalty called on the play and Forrest returned to the game.
Hughes, a 6-foot-0, 215-pound freshman, has appeared in seven games this season as a backup, making five tackles, including one for a loss. No. 23 Mississippi State (6-2, 2-2 SEC) hosts Kentucky (4-4, 1-4) on Saturday.
In a statement from the school, Hughes said the hit was a "silly mistake."
"Now I have to pay the price for my actions," Hughes said. "Our coaches teach us and warn us about those types of plays, and I just need to learn from this and make sure it doesn't happen in the future."
Mississippi State has won five straight games and is nationally ranked for the first time since 2001. The loss of Hughes puts a dent in the team's depth at linebacker as the Bulldogs prepare to face Kentucky, which has a prolific offense that ranks among the SEC's best.
"We coach our players on these situations _ how to lead with your shoulder, make sure you wrap up and see the front of the jersey _ not only to avoid pointless penalties, but to make sure everyone is safe on the field," coach Dan Mullen said in the statement. "This is a teachable moment for Chris and our entire team. He'll face the consequences for his actions and learn from it."
The school said Hughes and Mullen will not comment any further on the suspension.