Not since 1999 have the Mississippi State Bulldogs opened the season a perfect 4-0, but on Saturday night, that’s exactly what Dan Mullen’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 wasn’t exactly pleased with his team’s effort.
“Tyler was making bad reads, he was over throwing guys, (and) the offensive line was just sloppy,” said Mullen. “Some was on us with some bad play calls. Everything, to me, was exactly what you don’t want to do. You should win this game and you want to come out and play sharp and play crisp. We didn’t do that in the first half at all.”
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.
“The defense played very well in the first half. We got to rotating a lot of guys in; they’ve got to come in and perform at a certain level. There’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.”
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.
“He was perfect on kicks," Mullen said. "I’ve said from the beginning that all of his misses were little easy misses. It wasn’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.”
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.
“What we’ve got to do moving forward is put it all together,” said Mullen. “Our defense played well when the ones were in there most of the night. Our special teams played great, but we’ve seldom played a complete game in all three phases. Fortunately every time we’ve stepped on the field, we’ve played well in two out of three and that’s been good enough to win.”
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.