September 22, 2013 10:49:10 AM
STARKVILLE - What did we learn?
Mississippi State players and coaches weren't happy with the comeback effort Troy exhibited last year and in 2013 decided to crush their spirit before they entered the halftime locker room in a 62-7 blowout that included a 35-point second quarter. It's the third straight fast start by the MSU offense and in the mind's of MSU fans, not so coincidently the third straight start by sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott (trust me, we'll get back to that eventually).
- Thanks to most points by a Bulldogs team in a half (45) in the modern era, since 1950, MSU dominated the Trojans in a 62-7 blowout victory. The MSU offense has put up 82 points combined in the first halves at home against Alcorn State and Troy this season leaving another game with emptying bleachers early and partying beginning outside of Davis Wade Stadium. It's possible some first-year players on this MSU team weren't born since the last time MSU put up that much damage on the scoreboard. The point total is the most for the MSU program since a 66-22 victory on Oct. 22, 1994.
- MSU (2-2) eclipsed its largest first-half point total since they scored 38 vs. Northeast Louisiana University in a 59-0 victory on Nov. 2, 1996. Troy's defense, which came in allowing averaging 36 points per game against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, allowed 35 points in the second quarter on drives that ranged from nine seconds long to over six minutes.
- In the first half, Troy (2-2) held the football five minutes longer than MSU and ran 14 more plays but were outgained by 166 yards. MSU needed just 31 plays to achieve 16 first downs. In a first half that saw them leave the field with a 45-7 lead, Prescott led MSU in passing yards (207), rushing yards (53) and also accounted for a 36-yard touchdown catch on a trick play. According to collegefootballreference.com, MSU had never had a player since 1960 account for a touchdown by running, throwing and catching the football. In Saturday's blowout, MSU had both Prescott and junior wide receiver Jameon Lewis accomplish the feat in the same evening.
- After allowing 572 total yards in the third-most yards given up by MSU under coach Dan Mullen last year, Troy struggled to get any momentum Saturday in the Bulldogs 62-7 victory at Davis Wade Stadium. The defensive effort began with the first drive of the game where MSU turned an effective Troy drive into a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jamerson Love. Love's score is the first of his career and 11th interception returned for a touchdown for MSU under Mullen. In two home games this season, the MSU defense has caused a turnover on the first drive in each of the contests.
- After being puzzled by Troy's zone-option offense last year, especially in the pass game, MSU (2-2) held Troy quarterback Corey Robinson to a career low 105 yards passing.
The Troy coaching staff continued to swap Robinson, the NCAA's active leader in passing yards, for backup quarterback Deon Anthony because of Anthony's running ability. The lack of cohesion at the signal caller position created two turnovers in the first half that both led to touchdowns for the Bulldogs.
After Troy scored its only touchdown of the evening with six seconds left in the first quarter, the Trojans managed to gain just 38 yards throughout the final three quarters.
- Mississippi State's junior wide receiver Jameon Lewis showed the announced attendance of 55,096 at Davis Wade Stadium he was capable for more athletic plays. With 13 minutes and 44 seconds left in the second quarter, Lewis added another element to his MSU career - passing. On a throwback pass trick play, Lewis connected with a wide open Dak Prescott and the sophomore quarterback was able to rumble for 36 yards for the score. The touchdown was MSU's first as a offense and put the Bulldogs up 17-7 early in what would be the most prolific scoring first half for MSU in the modern era.
- Senior center Dylan Holley got his first career start Saturday in place of junior Dillon Day.
In the post-game media conference, Mullen stated Day was suspended by the MSU coaching staff for a personal foul penalty the previous week against Auburn.
"We did that internally and felt like that wasn't something that properly represented our university at all," Mullen said.
Day had 25 consecutive starts at the position before Saturday's game against Troy. The lineup change was not because of a injury as Day was active and participated in warmups with the first-team offense. Holley's starting nod makes for two players that opened the 2013 season as primary backups seeing starts in the first four weeks of play on the MSU offensive line.
Last season Holley, a junior college transfer from Gulf Coast Community College, saw action in 12 games primarily on special teams with the kicking units. He played 15 snaps in the season-opening victory against Jackson State, grading out at 73 percent with two pancake blocks. According to the MSU coaching staff, he raded out a career-best 92 percent at Alabama in 2012, receiving a "S" for satisfactory in 12 of his 13 snaps.
- We now, at least in the minds of the fans, have a full quarterback controversy at Mississippi State University. Mississippi State team medical staff cleared Bulldogs fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Russell for contact Thursday but head coach Dan Mullen gave sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott his third straight start. Prescott finished with 13 of 21 through the air for 233 yards and a touchdown. The 240-pound quarterback also led MSU in rushing in the first half with 53 yards a two scores. In just over 12 minutes directing the MSU offense, Prescott accounted for a career-high 296 all-purpose yards. Previously the official word by the MSU coaching staff was if Russell was medically cleared to play, he'd be put in the lineup. However, Russell was unable to get an adequate number of snaps in practice to prepare him to start Saturday. In his post-game media conference, Mullen stated emphatically that Russell is the "starting quarterback" of the program and he anticipated Russell to be the starter behind center after this upcoming bye week when MSU hosts Louisiana State. With MSU (2-2) being up 45-7 at halftime, Mullen and the MSU staff elected to play freshman Damian Williams in the final two quarters in order to get the younger signal caller some much-needed playing time.
What we heard?
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen:
"That was a great team effort for our guys and I was very pleased in how our guys played tonight. On defense, that was a heck of a job to hold a team like Troy to 186 yards. That was a pretty special performance by our defense. We are really proud of those guys, especially because we have had a bunch of injuries on defense. We have had guys banged up, but the next guy is always willing to step in and is ready to go play. On offense I think we were pretty efficient throughout most of the night. One of the things I challenged our team on is that I felt we would improve from week one to week two, week two to week three and so on. I felt we had a great practice this last week, and I thought we would improve from week three to four and I think it showed on the field. With a young group of guys we need to continue to improve. We are going to watch this film; there will be a lot of things we will have to correct. The perception is that we might have all the answers right now, but the reality is we will have some things to improve on like we did last week. This week we will have a smile on our face after getting a win at home. Our crowd gave us home-field advantage tonight and they have done that a lot. We've had now 25-consecutive sellouts where we have had that home field advantage. It was great to get a win and go into our bye week. We will hopefully get healed up and get our guys ready to go against LSU here in two weeks."
On defensive pressure ...
"I thought our pressure was huge. If he (quarterback Corey Robinson) gets on a rhythm he will tear you up, he is as good of a passing quarterback as anyone in college football today. What our defense was able to do was not let him get in a rhythm. It was huge to get some pressure on him, make him throw some uncomfortable throws and I thought our secondary did a good job hanging in there and covering."
On the importance of an early lead ...
"You have to get that momentum when you have a young team. When you get off to a fast start, you can just feel it on the sideline. The players just look around and say, 'I guess I should act excited."
On if Dak Prescott will assume the starting quarterback duties....
"Tyler is our starting quarterback," Mullen said Saturday. "We plan on Tyler being the starter against LSU and going forward."
Senior OG Gabe Jackson:
On what it meant to score early ...
"Man it felt a lot better because last year we went to the wire with it. We came out with a better start and foot in and got the game in hand early."
On setting up Dak Prescott for touchdowns ...
"He pretty much did it on his own. He is a very good quarterback. He took the game in his hands and did what he had to do and made plays.
On the play of the offensive line ...
"I believe we are making small leaps, not large leaps. We're doing well in practice everyday and working on things we have messed up in previous days."
Troy head coach Larry Blakeney:
"I have said this all along, when you go to an SEC town you usually find SEC teams, coaches and players. We found them and they are a good football team. I don't know how good everyone else is in the league is but I'm glad we don't play against a SEC team every week.
"We have to find out who we are because we really don't know who we are right now. We don't matchup very well up front against them on either side of the ball. Our guys are pretty good on the defensive front, but I think we were over matched. Their defensive line over matched us, which caused problems in protection and trying to run the ball. It was one of those nights where we couldn't get anything done."
Troy senior QB Corey Robinson:
On Troy's performance ...
"We got embarrassed. We didn't play a good football game at all. We just got embarrassed. We got taken out behind the woodshed and got embarrassed. That's about it."
On responding from the loss ...
"Luckily they aren't in our conference. Taking a loss like that is tough, no matter who you lose to. We're just going to have to regroup and start over fresh.
"Coach Mullen has done a great job with their team. He's one of the best coaches in college. Good luck to them, and hopefully we can turn things around."
On Troy's offensive struggles ...
"We needed to get a couple of drives going and it seemed like we would come up a yard short here and there. They had a good plan for us and obviously we still shot ourselves in the foot. We had some guys not doing the right things, including myself. I'm not blaming it on anybody, but it was a total team effort in this loss."
Bye week before No. 6 LSU (4-0) comes to Starkville
With two weeks to prepare for No. 6 LSU (4-0), Mississippi State might have shed some of the worries and doubters regarding its young offensive skill position players.
"They've been a good defense for so many years that we'll certainly need that extra week of preparation for them before they come in here," Prescott said. "It'll be a big game and I expect the emotion to be high any time we play LSU."
LSU hasn't lost to Mississippi State since 1999 when the Bulldogs took home a 17-16 victory to send the Tigers to 2-5 and 0-5 in the Southeastern Conference. LSU is coming off an impressive 35-21 home victory over Auburn and is third in the SEC in scoring at 43.3 points per game. LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is second in the conference in quarterback rating with 10 touchdowns and one interception (thrown against Auburn Saturday). LSU tailback Jeremy Hill is third in the SEC in rushing at 117 yards per game with six touchdowns.
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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