By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State had to wait 24 years to renew its rivalry with Southern Miss.
The Bulldogs made sure it was a memorable occasion dominating the Golden Eagles in all three phases Saturday night in a 49-0 shutout, the largest margin of victory in the instate series.
MSU racked up 550 yards and six touchdowns on offense, created three turnovers on defense and even blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown in the rout.
“I’m proud of our team today,” said MSU coach Dan Mullen. “I’m proud of the way we played to start off the season. We played a lot of guys and a lot of guys made plays. I’m really proud of the way our defense played all night.”
The Bulldogs racked up 550 yards on the night, including 349 through the air. Dak Prescott had a career-best performance, completing 18 of 26 passing for 284 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.
“The passing game is something I wanted to get better at and I think I did well,” Prescott said. “I’ve got to eliminate that turnover the red zone though and not let that happen again. It was an alright first game.”
Prescott’s four touchdowns tied a school single-game record.
De’Runnya Wilson proved to be Prescott’s favorite target, hauling in four passes for 65 yards and a pair of scores. Josh Robinson paced the backfield with 87 yards on 14 carries and added 49 receiving yards.
Right from the start
State got things going right from the jump, marching 87 yards on the opening drive and finding the end zone when Prescott connected with Wilson from 25-yards out.
The Bulldogs struggled on its next four possessions but got things back on track in the second quarter. Nick Griffin plowed in from a yard out then Prescott went through the air with a 35-yard strike to a wide-open Fred Ross and closed out the half with a 23-yard touchdown to Malcolm Johnson to take a 28-0 lead.
It was more of the same after halftime, as Prescott guided the offense into the end zone on the opening drive of the second half. The junior quarterback once again connected with Wilson from 24-yards out.
A Damian Williams fumbled snap later in the quarter gave the Golden Eagles their only scoring opportunity. Corey Acosta’s 30-yard field goal attempt turned into seven points the other way as Preston Smith blocked it and Jay Hughes scooped it up for a 70-yard touchdown.
Hughes was lost for the year in the 2013 opener after rupturing his achilles on the sixth play.
“For Jay Hughes to make that interception and score on the blocked kick, that’s just amazing,” Mullen said. “He’s a guy that does everything right for the program.”
The Bulldogs added one final score in the fourth quarter when Williams hit Ross from 21 yards out.
Southern Miss managed just 283 yards in the game, 212 of which came through the air from Nick Mullens.
The Golden Eagles were limited to 71 yards rushing and are now 1-24 over the last three seasons.