STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) – Dan Mullen’s “To Do” list got a tad bit shorter Saturday. Where it says “Beat Auburn,” there’s now a check mark.
In front of another sellout crowd of 56,111 at Scott Field, the ninth largest in stadium history, Mississippi State erased four years of frustration against the Tigers with a solid 28-10 victory.
For Mullen, it was his first win against Auburn in six tries, dating back
to his time as an assistant at Florida.
Credit the defense.
In a performance that was nothing short of dominating, MSU (2-0), which has now outscored its two opponents 84-19, held the Tigers (0-2) to just 216 yards of total offense while forcing five turnovers. Johnthan Banks accounted for two of the miscues with interceptions to give him 14 for his career, the most among active FBS players.
MSU defenders also recorded eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including four by Corey Broomfield. Cameron Lawrence paced the defensive attack with 10 tackles, six solo. He also had one of the Bulldogs’ two sacks, while Preston Smith was credited with the other.
And no one felt the brunt of the staunch defensive effort more than Auburn sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who was 13-of-22 passing for 125 yards and three picks, with Darius Slay accounting for the other interception.
On the ground, Auburn managed just 91 yards after a 180-yard performance last week against Clemson.
Yes, the defense certainly set the tone. But at the same time, the offense was nearly as effective.
Behind the arm of junior signal caller Tyler Russell, the Bulldogs manufactured 388 total yards. Russell, playing with the poise of a veteran student-athlete, completed a career-best 20 of his 29 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
“We need for him to play like that if we want to compete for a championship this season,” said Mullen, whose team won an SEC opener for the first time since 1999.
Russell’s first scoring strike went to Marcus Green, covering 30 yards to give MSU a 7-3 lead with 6:53 left in the first half. It was a score that remained unchanged until the start of the second half when Auburn’s Onterio McCalebb returned the opening kickoff 100 yards to put the Tigers up, 10-7.
But on the Bulldogs’ ensuing possession, they methodically marched 75 yards in eight plays and regained the lead for good when Chad Bumphis hauled in a Russell pass from 13 yards out for a 14-10 advantage.
In fact, it was a drive that jumpstarted an offense that rolled up 14 more points, ignited by Green’s second touchdown, a 3-yard pass from Russell. The final score resulted in a 21-yard jaunt by LaDarius Perkins, who led all rushers with 83 yards on 14 carries.