Not since 1999 have the Mississippi State Bulldogs opened the season a perfect 4-0, but on Saturday night, thatâ€™s exactly what Dan Mullenâ€™s team did with a 30-10 win over South Alabama.
After a slow start, the Bulldog offense got going in the second quarter thanks to a LaDarius Perkins 44-yard scoring run to break the ice and give State the early 7-0 lead.
State followed with a Dak Prescott 2-yard scoring rush and a pair of Devon Bell field goals to take 20-0 lead into the locker room.
However, Mullen wasnâ€™t exactly pleased with his teamâ€™s effort.
â€śTyler was making bad reads, he was over throwing guys, (and) the offensive line was just sloppy,â€ť said Mullen. â€śSome was on us with some bad play calls. Everything, to me, was exactly what you donâ€™t want to do. You should win this game and you want to come out and play sharp and play crisp. We didnâ€™t do that in the first half at all.â€ť
While the offense struggled with Russell connecting on just 13-of-27 of his passes for 171 yards, the defense held the Jaguars in check during the first half allowing just 104 yards of total offense.
â€śThe defense played very well in the first half. We got to rotating a lot of guys in; theyâ€™ve got to come in and perform at a certain level. Thereâ€™s a standard of excellence we have for them as well, but I thought they played well in the first half and kind of went through the motions a bit in the second half.â€ť
The bright spot for the evening for the Bulldogs was the fact that freshman kicker Devon Bell worked through his early season slump and produced 12 points for the Bulldogs.
â€śHe was perfect on kicks," Mullen said. "Iâ€™ve said from the beginning that all of his misses were little easy misses. It wasnâ€™t like he shanked one into the student section. You could see (Saturday night) that his kicks were solid all night long and I imagine this will give him confidence moving forward, so he will perform at the level we expect him to.â€ť
The 20-point victory for the Bulldogs is something Mullen was pleased with but he understands his team has to find a way to play a complete game if they want to remain undefeated.
â€śWhat weâ€™ve got to do moving forward is put it all together,â€ť said Mullen. â€śOur defense played well when the ones were in there most of the night. Our special teams played great, but weâ€™ve seldom played a complete game in all three phases. Fortunately every time weâ€™ve stepped on the field, weâ€™ve played well in two out of three and thatâ€™s been good enough to win.â€ť
For the game, State spread the ball around with eight guys carrying the ball for 156 yards and nine players with catches for a total of 200 yards. Perkins paced the rushing attack with 11 carries for 72 yards and a score, while Brandon Heavens led the way with three catches for 55 yards in the passing game.
State now heads into a bye week where they will look to get healthy and turn its focus to an eight-week stretch against seven conference foes that promises to be brutal.
The Bulldogs will return to action on October 6 in Lexington, Ky. against the Kentucky Wildcats.View more articles in: