By Brad Locke
STARKVILLE – Pernell McPhee actually had something to be mad about following Mississippi State’s 49-7 drubbing of Memphis on Saturday.
“I’m really angry,” said the senior defensive end. “I feel like they got too many yards, and I feel like they ain’t supposed to score.”
McPhee, who made three tackles, wanted to preserve the shutout, but Memphis found the end zone late in the fourth quarter against the Bulldogs’ backups. Still, it was a fine performance in new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s first game.
Memphis managed only 237 total yards and averaged just 2.0 yards per rush. The Tigers were 2 of 15 on third-down conversions.
“The end result was good, zero points, but I thought we had a lot more to offer than what we did in the first half,” Diaz said. “I thought in the third quarter we finally imposed our will. I thought we were more dominant. It was a flash of what we want to be – there it was.
“Our guys will be able to see that and understand if we can carry that over 60 minutes, despite the results tonight, we can really be something.”
Wright should be OK
• Senior linebacker K.J. Wright left the game in the second quarter and didn’t return, suffering what coach Dan Mullen called a “mild sprain.”
He could have returned, but Mullen decided to play it safe with Auburn coming into town on Thursday.
“I assume he’s going to be fine for Thursday,” Mullen said.
First starts, suspensions
• Several players made their first career starts Saturday, among them tailback Robert Elliott, linebacker Emmanuel Gatling, receiver Brandon Heavens, offensive lineman Gabe Jackson, defensive end Johnathan McKenzie, quarterback Chris Relf, receiver Ricco Sanders, safety Nickoe Whitley.
“There are a lot of guys who got first action out there today, and they responded,” Mullen said. “It’s great to get that under their belt, and hopefully we can gain some confidence going into the SEC schedule.”
A handful of players were suspended for this game due to an unspecified violation of team policy: receiver Chris Smith, receiver Shane McCardell and linebacker Michael Hunt.
• Leading 14-0, MSU put together a 71-yard scoring drive to take a 21-0 lead – and all the momentum – into the locker room at halftime. Vick Ballard scored on a 51-yard run.
• 4 – TD passes by QB Tyler Russell, the first time an MSU signal-caller has thrown that many in a game since Wesley Carroll did it against Arkansas in 2007.
• “I was a little nervous, but I’ve played football all my life. The only thing different was the atmosphere.” – Tailback Vick Ballard, a junior college transfer, who rushed for 60 yards and two TDs.
• It’s a short turnaround, as MSU welcomes Auburn for a Thursday night showdown in both teams’ SEC opener. The ESPN telecast is set for 6:30 p.m.
• Safety Charles Mitchell led MSU with nine tackles, a career high. … The 42-point win was the largest margin of victory for MSU over Memphis. The Bulldogs now lead the series 32-11. … The margin was also MSU’s largest since beating East Tennessee State 53-6 in 1998. … Cornerback Maurice Langston made two interceptions.
Brad Locke / NEMS Daily Journal