September 9, 2012 12:58:45 AM
Matthew Stevens - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Dominating is a word the Mississippi State University football team rarely gets to use when it plays Auburn University.
On Saturday, MSU controlled nearly every aspect of the game in a 28-10 victory before a sellout crowd of 56,111 at Scott Field at Davis Wade Stadium. The sellout, the ninth largest in stadium history, was the 18th in a row.
The victory was the first for MSU coach Dan Mullen against a Western Division opponent other than the University of Mississippi. Mullen was 0-3 against Auburn at MSU entering the day, but a dominating victory changed that.
"We've talked about since I've been here we were going to compete for SEC championships, and I've talked about the road we have to take to do that," Mullen said. "If you watched how this game went along, especially in the first half, we did a lot of things that in the past we wouldn't have overcome."
MSU's defensive effort took sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier out of sync from the opening possession. In his first career Southeastern Conference start on the road, MSU senior defensive back Jonathan Banks was the former five-star recruit's leading receiver at halftime. MSU's Jim Thorpe Award nominee intercepted Frazier twice, while Frazier had just one completion for minus-2 yards in the first half.
MSU senior middle linebacker Cameron Lawrence said after the game the Bulldogs' pressure affected Frazier's demeanor. In its past four SEC home games (Auburn, Ole Miss, the University of Alabama, and the University of South Carolina), MSU has allowed just 76 yards in the first half.
"When you play us, I'm going to get in your head early on, and I saw he wasn't ready for our plan for him from the first snap on," Lawrence said. "There was a point in the first half today where we knew what the play was and who was going to get the ball. They couldn't confuse us on anything they were doing."
Frazier was responsible for all five of Auburn's turnovers. One hundred seven of his 125 passing yards came when MSU (2-0) was in a prevent defense.
"Other than the last drive, we struggled all day in the passing game (and) everybody wants to bring up Kiehl Frazier, but there are 10 other guys on the field with him," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "I don't think it is just one player."
While Frazier struggled, junior quarterback Tyler Russell was a difference-maker for MSU, completing a career-best 20 passes on 29 attempts for 222 yards and three touchdowns. It was Russell's first 200-yard performance against a SEC defense, and the first 200-yard passing game by an MSU quarterback since the 2010 Egg Bowl.
"With our offensive line and our running game, it's about picking your poison, so today Auburn's defense allowed me the opportunity to beat them," Russell said. "We worked so hard on stressing our fakes this year so the defense can't tell if it's pass or run."
The victory means leads the SEC Western Division for the first time since 1998. It also is the first time MSU is 1-0 in league play since 1999.
MSU is expected to be favored in at least four of its next five games and could be ranked in national polls by the end of the month.
After Mullen and the program accomplished something that many fans felt was long overdue, a new attitude has engulfed the Starkville campus.
"I guess the monkey is off my back now, but I view it as a bigger one just jumped on," Mullen said. "I hope in November we are talking about an 800-pound gorilla jumping on my back. That's what I want for our program."