By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
MSU’s offense was balanced and, particularly in the second half, deadly efficient.
Tyler Russell dissected Auburn’s pass defense to the tune of 222 yards and three touchdowns. LaDarius Perkins led the rushing attack with 83 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries – an average of 5.9 yards per rush.
The defense was even better, forcing five turnovers, keeping Auburn’s offense out of the end zone and holding the Tigers to 3.5 yards per play.
The first half was full of penalties and missed opportunities, and MSU clung to a 7-3 halftime lead. Russell took quite a few big hits.
State was 1 of 10 on third-down conversions. It also gave up a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown, and freshman kicker Devon Bell missed two field goals.
Keys to victory
Evaluating the keys to victory in Saturday’s GameDay section:
1. Block the ends. Left tackle Blaine Clausell had some trouble with Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier at times, and Russell took some licks. But there was only one sack, and Russell was able to stay away from the pass rush with several rollouts. He was very accurate throwing the ball on those plays.
Plus, a strong run game (166 yards) took some pressure off the passing attack. Auburn’s defensive line seemed to wear down in the second half.
2. Remain calm. MSU played a lot of freshmen and sophomores again, and several of them played well and didn’t seem too overwhelmed by the speed and intensity of an SEC game. Redshirt freshman Derrick Milton had 30 yards on six carries, freshman linebacker Ryan Brown had a pass deflection, and sophomore defensive lineman Preston Smith recorded a sack and forced a fumble.
Then there was Bell, who’s 0 for 3 on field goals this season.
3. Contain the run. Auburn has hurt MSU with the run before, but the Tigers managed only 91 yards this time. Mike Blakely had 42 yards on 11 carries, but the running game never got going.
QB Tyler Russell: In the biggest game of his career to date, Russell was coldly efficient, completing 20 of 29 passes (69 percent) and averaging 11.1 yards per completion. He had no interceptions and stood tall in the pocket even when being rushed.
Russell was accurate whether staying in the pocket or rolling out. More important, he calmly led an MSU rally after Auburn’s big kickoff return. He showed the poise and leadership of a real SEC quarterback, and MSU has now set itself up for a great start to the season.