Teams work tirelessly to get ready for the season opener of the college football season, not knowing if they are truly prepared.
On Saturday night, the Bulldogs saw the efforts of the past eight months culminate with a 56-9 victory over the visiting Jackson State Tigers.
Mississippi State simply dominated the game in virtually every aspect all the while getting valuable experience for the new faces on this year’s roster.
“It was great to be back out there playing," MSU head football coach Dan Mullen said. "It was very exciting to get the guys back out there on the field. We have a lot of things we can go over and teach off of this game’s film.”
It took the Bulldogs just 5:40 to march 66 yards on eight plays to open the 2012 season with a touchdown. The drive was capped by a 9-yard strike from Tyler Russell to Chad Bumphis and at that point the rout was on.
“I saw that the corner was trying to bait and I was trying to bait him,” said Russell, who threw for 175 yards on a 15-for-23 effort. “I have complete confidence in Chad that he will get open in those situations.”
Following a three and out, State was the beneficiary of a Johnthan Banks 35-yard punt return giving the Bulldogs the ball at the JSU 23-yard line. Five plays later, the lead was extended to 14-0 when LaDarius Perkins carried the ball 8 yards for the score.
On the ensuing MSU possession, the lead became 21-0 on a Perkins' 1-yard plunge, which was set up by an 18-yard hook up between Russell and tight end Marcus Green. The drive took 10 plays to go 52 yards in just 4:11.
For the night, State rushed the ball 37 times for 194 yards with Derrick Milton leading the way with 65 yards on eight carries. Perkins also carried the ball eight times for 50 yards.
“LaDarius got the workout we wanted him to get and everybody got an opportunity to touch the ball,” Mullen said. “I thought we ran the ball decent at times, but mixing those guys up is great to get that experience because it’s really the first time those three guys have played.”
The Bulldogs added seven more points to its total on the next possession when Russell once again found Green from 13 yards out to extend the lead to 28-0.
Not to be outdone, the MSU defense wanted to get in on the scoring action and on the next series, it did. Darius Slay plucked a Dedric McDonald pass from the air and scampered 52 yards for the score.
“It is great to see those guys make plays," Bulldog starting guard Tobias Smith said. "It just gets us energized. We’re just happy we’re not having to go against those guys on game day.”
With State holding a 35-0 lead the Tigers mounted a scoring drive of its own going 93 yards in eight plays to get on the board before the half, 35-6.
In the second half. the Bulldogs were able to insert fresh faces into the rotation on both sides of the football with the result being the same.
Redshirt freshman signal caller Dak Prescott saw his first action as a Bulldog in the third quarter and led State on a scoring drive which he capped with a two-yard scoring run to push the MSU lead to 42-6.
“I knew he was going to play and he knew he was going to play," said Russell. "It was just a matter of time. We talked a lot about it and he will get better from being on the field (Saturday night).”
Moments later Matthew Wells made his presence felt with a 22-yard interception of McDonald and State’s lead swelled to 49-6.
“I was in a great spot," said Wells, who also had a sack to go with five tackles. "The defensive line put some great pressure on the quarterback. I knew when I caught the ball I was going for a touchdown.”
Jackson State answered with a 15 play, 84-yard drive of its own which resulted in a field goal.
The final score of the game came on a Derrick Milton 19-yard dash to run the final score to 56-9.
“We have a lot of guys getting some reps and we gave a lot of guys some experience,” said Mullen, whose Bulldogs face Auburn next Saturday in the Southeastern Conference opener. “A lot of guys got to play football on the collegiate level for the first time.”
While the night was a success, Mullen still sees areas where State must get better in order to make a run at the Tigers next week.
“There are some things we have to improve on," Mullen said. "(Russell) wasn’t’ as sharp as I would have liked to have seen him. Tyler played well but I expect him to be even sharper. Just being sharper on his reads, because I thought he was trying to do a little too much out there. He just needs to run the offense and we will be OK.”
The Bulldogs take this afternoon off before returning to the practice field on Monday for SEC game week preparation.