By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
MSU (7-0) turned in perhaps its most dominant second half of the season. It scored 35 points, gained 235 yards of offense and forced three turnovers to open up a 10-3 halftime lead.
The usual suspects had big games for MSU.
Quarterback Tyler Russell was deadly efficient, senior receiver Chris Smith scored two touchdowns, cornerback Johnthan Banks had a critical third-quarter interception, and senior linebacker Cam Lawrence forced and recovered a fumble.
MSU capitalized on both turnovers with touchdowns.
As has been its habit, State hit a dry spell offensively in the first half. One drive stalled in the red zone and ended with a missed field goal, and the next drive saw Russell lose a fumble – just MSU’s fourth turnover of the season.
The Bulldogs finally got it going after halftime, scoring on five consecutive possessions.
Keys to victory
Evaluating the keys to victory in Saturday’s GameDay section:
1. Don’t get trapped. This could have been considered a trap game because of where it was situated on MSU’s schedule – one week after Tennessee, one week before top-ranked Alabama.
And early on, it looked like MSU might be slipping into a trap.
But a 64-yard touchdown run by LaDarius Perkins seemed to snap the Bulldogs out of their reverie and energized the crowd. The momentum kept building with two turnovers and two subsequent scores. MSU did what a highly ranked team should do to a Sun Belt Conference team: Step on its throat.
2. Maintain the balance. MSU actually went heavy on the run early, with nine running plays on a 14-play TD drive to open the game. By halftime, MSU had run it 22 times and passed it 16.
It was nearly 50-50 the rest of the way, as State finished with 33 runs against 26 passes.
3. Hang onto the ball. MSU committed one turnover, and MTSU couldn’t turn it into points late in the first half. After that, the Bulldogs took care of the ball and ended the night plus-2 in turnover margin.
Tyler Russell: Completed 17 of 21 passes for 191 yards and three TDs. It was his third consecutive strong outing, and over the last three games he’s completed 63 of 97 passes (65 percent) for 751 yards, seven TDs and no interceptions.
MSU faces a brutal five-week stretch, with all the games coming against SEC Western Division opponents. It starts Saturday with a trip to No. 1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0).