Several young Bulldogs made their college debuts in the 59-14 win over Memphis - to be exact, 15 of 21 true and redshirt freshmen saw their first action, many of those on defense.
Redshirt freshman Kaleb Eulls drew the start at defensive end, and some former local high school stars also got in the game: defensive lineman P.J. Jones (Tupelo), cornerback Jamerson Love (Aberdeen) and defensive tackle Curtis Virges (West Point).
"We got to play so many guys on defense, I was pleased to see it," coach Dan Mullen said. "(Deontae) Skinner, (Marvin) Bure and Matt Wells, it was good to get them in and get them broken in."
Skinner, a sophomore linebacker, led MSU with seven tackles, while Bure and Wells were next with five apiece.
Jones had four stops and got in on the action early, recovering a Billy Foster fumble in the first quarter. That set up a 28-yard Derek DePasquale field goal for a 17-0 MSU lead.
"Without actually seeing the tape, I believe he did the one thing we asked him to do: He played hard and he was physical," defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said of Jones.
Five men out
Mississippi State got the job done Thursday night despite missing some key pieces, most notably junior defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. He was one of five Bulldogs suspended by Mullen for the opener for various violations of team policies, according to a team spokesman.
The others were three redshirt freshmen and a sophomore: offensive tackle Blaine Clausell, quarterback Dylan Favre, tight end Malcolm Johnson and linebacker Chris Hughes.
All five players will be available for next week's game at No. 23 Auburn.
Cox is one of MSU's best defensive players, earning preseason All-SEC second-team honors this year. He made 29 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season.
Junior Devin Jones started in his place and recorded two tackles and a forced fumble.
MSU set the tone early when it covered 53 yards on two plays to open up a 7-0 lead. After a 9-yard run by Vick Ballard on first down, Chris Relf hit Chad Bumphis for a 44-yard touchdown pass.
645 - MSU set a school record for total offense in a game, eclipsing the old mark of 596, which had stood for 33 years. It did so on 69 plays, averaging 9.3 yards per play.
"We're very happy. We came out with a good win. There were a lot of teaching moments, things we have to get fixed." - MSU head coach Dan Mullen
MSU is on the road again, opening SEC play against defending BCS champion Auburn. The Tigers, who are trying to replace QB Cam Newton and defensive lineman Nick Fairley, open their season Saturday against Utah State.
MSU's 17 first-quarter points were the most since at least 1990, when those records began being kept. ... Sophomore punter Baker Swedenburg had a strong debut, averaging 41.4 yards on five kicks with a long of 52, which was downed at the Memphis 3-yard line. ... Junior cornerback Johnthan Banks got the starting nod on punt returns, gaining 25 yards on three returns. ... Memphis won the time-of-possession battle, 37:16 to 22:40, but that's because MSU scored so quickly.