Recapping No. 23 MSU’s 30-10 win over South Alabama at Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday night.
There was plenty for Dan Mullen to be unhappy about, but he’s definitely happy to see MSU move to 4-0 on the season. The Bulldogs struggled early on offense, but the defense and special teams showed up big in the third non-conference game of the season.
Overall, it was certainly a better showing than the previous week at Troy, which was a 30-24 nail-biter.
“Everything to me was what you don’t want to do (offensively),” Mullen said. “When you get in these games, you should win this game, you want to come out and play sharp and play crisp. We didn’t do that in first half at all.”
Quarterback Tyler Russell was not sharp. He was 13 of 27 for 171 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He was high on several of his throws.
“He was holding the ball a little too much at times today, and he flat missed some throws,” Mullen said. “He’s going to have an off day once in a while, but he has a lot more on days than off days. … Hopefully he got that out of his system – that was his off game for the year.”
MSU finished with 356 total yards, 156 of that on the ground. South Alabama (1-3) gained 347 yards, with 243 of that coming after halftime. State was 5 of 15 on third-down conversions, while USA was 5 of 14. The Bulldogs won the turnover battle, 3-1, with Johnthan Banks and Nickoe Whitley both recording interceptions.
Banks now has 15 career INTs, and he’s got eight games (nine assuming a bowl) to break Walt Harris‘ school record of 16.
Linebacker Benardrick McKinney, making his first career start, led the way with eight tackles. MSU had six tackles-for-loss, and defensive end Denico Autry was active, finishing with four stops and 1.0 TFL. The tackling was much better this week than last, and MSU gave up just one play of 20-plus yards.
“We just put all the pieces of the puzzle together from last week, lined up and dominated those guys,” Autry said.
MSU punted four times in the first quarter, then finally scored on a 44-yard run by LaDarius Perkins. He finished with 69 yards on 11 carries. Backup QB Dak Prescott came in to finish off a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive with a 2-yard TD run, and then freshman kicker Devon Bell hit a pair of 42-yard field goals for a 20-0 halftime lead.
USA scored a field goal on the opening possession of the second half, but MSU answered with a five-play, 50-yard touchdown drive. Russell punched it in from 1 yard out. The drive was set up by Jameon Lewis‘ 49-yard kickoff return.
Special teams had a good night, with Baker Swedenburg averaging 47 yards on four punts. He got no work after that busy first quarter.
MSU is off next weekend, then returns to SEC play Oct. 6 at lowly Kentucky. The Bulldogs get a chance to heal up and work on some of the issues, especially on offense.
“This bye week’s going to be big for us,” linebacker Cam Lawrence said. “Get healed up, guys might be a little beat up, and get ready for some big-time SEC play.”
MSU – LaDarius Perkins 44 run (Devon Bell kick), 12:18 (3 plays, 70 yards, 1:17)
MSU – Dak Prescott 2 run (Bell kick), 5:38 (9 plays, 80 yards, 3:56)
MSU – Devon Bell 42 field goal, 3:20 (4 plays, 4 yards, 1:00)
MSU – Bell 42 field goal, :00 (4 plays, 2 yards, :30)
USA – Michel Chapuseaux 22 field goal, 9:59 (13 plays, 71 yards, 5:01)
MSU – Tyler Russell 1 run (Bell kick), 7:56 (5 plays, 50 yards, 2:03)
MSU – Bell 31 field goal, 14:56 (12 plays, 44 yards, 5:55)
USA – Greg Hollinger 18 pass from C.J. Bennett, 4:14 (12 plays, 78 yards, 5:51)