October 21, 2012 2:29:53 AM
STARKVILLE - What did we learn?
- We learned Mississippi State University can sleep walk through another non-conference opponent with a historically significant game at University of Alabama.
This moment right now is exactly where Mississippi State University football coach Dan Mullen thought his program would be after seven weeks of the 2012 season.
After the No. 15 Bulldogs easily dispatched of Middle Tennessee State University Saturday evening 45-3, Mullen reflected on what is staring at each member of his football team the following weekend.
For the first time since Oct. 3, 1942, where the two squads will face each other as unbeaten teams.
"It's huge," Mullen said about next week's matchup against No. 1 University of Alabama. "This is right where we want to be. When I took the job here, these are the type of games that we wanted to play in."
MSU (7-0, 3-0 in Southeastern Conference) seemingly slept walked through a first half to securely dominate a upset-minded MTSU team that had previously knocked off Georgia Tech this season in Atlanta.
"(Mullen) basically told us we were playing terrible at halftime and then left us to figure it out for ourselves," MSU junior quarterback Tyler Russell said. "We started talking about how we would fix it at halftime."
And fix it is just what MSU did. 21 points in a seven-minute span and the Bulldogs lead comfortably 31-3 and on their way to its 15th-straight non-conference game.
In its first real feel of a blowout since the season-opening 56-9 victory over Jackson State University on Sept. 1, MSU's offense scored 25 points or more in seven-consecutive games for the first time in school history, while their 257 points scored are also the most points scored through seven games in school history.
We learned Tyler Russell can be consistently efficient at quarterback for Mississippi State
Russell finished 17-of-21 for 191 yards and three touchdowns Saturday night. Once again in typical fashion of his quarterback play, Russell spread the ball around to 10 different receivers but most importantly a breakout performance from his Meridian High School teammate Chris Smith.
"Tyler is going to spread the love to all of us and that's exactly what he always does," Smith said. "You know at one time you're going to have a big game and tonight was just my night."
After suffering through two separately embarrassing fumbles throughout SEC play, Smith led the Bulldogs with seven catches for 66 yards and his first two touchdowns of the 2012 season.
It's not as if a couple of turnovers would change the chemistry of Russell and Smith going back to their pitch-and-catch days at Meridian High School.
"Chris is one to never get down on himself," Russell said. "This goes back to high school. He always wants to practice harder and get better."
We learned LaDarius Perkins can be counted on to be the workhorse running back for the Bulldogs
biggest worry after a 125-yard performance with a touchdown in Mississippi State University's 45-3 victory over Middle Tennessee State University Saturday is his consistency becoming boring to the public.
"You just don't ever have to worry about Perkins having an off game," MSU junior quarterback Tyler Russell said. "It's one of those things that is constant because he works so hard in practice. LaDarius Perkins will always be there."
Mississippi State University's junior tailback even had his quarterback go on his Twitter page to call Perkins "the best running back in college football".
With a 64-yard touchdown run, Perkins maintained being one of just two running backs in the Football Bowl Subdivision (along with San Diego State University's Adam Muema) with a rushing touchdown in every game this season. Perkins has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in rushing four times this season in the last five contests.
This rushing streak for the junior tailback has pointed the spotlight directly at his presence after having just one 100-yard performance in his first 28 games as an MSU player.
"If everybody does their job, then we'll all have success and that's just my attitude all the time," Perkins said. "I know this is boring but I can't get these numbers without my offensive line or fullbacks in front of me."
Perkins has gone from the sidekick to Vick Ballard, who is currently the starting running back with the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League, to being the workhorse back to lead the Bulldogs rushing attack that stood eighth in the Southeastern Conference at 172.67 yards per game coming into Saturday night.
By the end of the first quarter, No. 15 MSU (7-0, 4-0 in SEC play) had handed the ball 15 times to Perkins for 55 yards allowing the Bulldogs to secure a 10-minute time of possession advantage (12 minutes, 33 seconds to 2 minutes, 27 seconds). The Bulldogs ground attack allowed MSU to be 5-for-6 on third down conversions, which is a situation MSU had been converting less than 40 percent this season.
"We wanted to try and establish the run because they're a high tempo offense...and it's something we were able to do last week too (against Tennessee) is take a high powered offense and take them out of the game," Mullen said. "Perk did a great job pounding away, pounding away and then broke the big one."
What we heard?
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen:
"I am pleased with how we performed coming out of the locker room in the second half. Statistically before half time, nothing was really sticking out other than the fact that we didn't score on two red-zone opportunities. I was very impressed with how we came out in the second half. We had several new guys playing and they all took advantage of the opportunity. That is something we talk about a lot in practice; you have to prepare for your opportunity and you have to jump on it when it is presented to you to make plays happen. I think that a lot of different guys made big plays tonight."
On matchup with Alabama:
"This week is huge for our program. This is right where we want to be. When I took the job here, these are the type of games that we wanted to play in. Our guys are going to be excited for the opportunity to be able to go play the No.1 team in the country."
Mississippi State junior quarterback Tyler Russell:
on Perkins' plays energizing the team:
"I told him at halftime that I needed some help in getting the team going. I told him to put the team on his back and that is what he did."
on Chris Smith's redemption from fumbles:
"Chris is one to never get down on himself. This goes back to high school. He always wants to practice harder and get better."
Mississippi State senior wide receiver Chris Smith
on maintaining his confidence from his fumbles:
"I cannot let anything hold me down. Even the best receivers in the NFL fumble balls. I just have to keep going for my team."
on being comfortable with Tyler Russell as his QB:
"I feel great because we have been playing together since our high school days. We still learn from each other."
University of Alabama (7-0, 4-0 in Southeastern Conference)
The defending national champions are now waiting for a MSU team wanting to take that next step in their program history under Mullen. The Bulldogs will get its chance they'd been waiting for since the SEC schedule came out last December.
"Here it is in the last week in October playing the number one ranked team in the country," Mullen said. "More importantly, this game is for first place in the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference. We're going to be excited."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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