September 22, 2013 1:21:51 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Even Dan Mullen thought his Mississippi State football team would be in for a shootout Saturday night against Troy.
Mullen should have asked his defense for a second opinion.
After allowing 572 yards to Troy last year, which was the third-most yards allowed by a Mullen-coached MSU team, Troy struggled Saturday to get any momentum in a 62-7 blowout at Davis Wade Stadium.
"I really thought we were in for a shootout like last year because of everything they had done against us in the game last year," Mullen said. "We had guys on defense banged up and the next healthy guy on the depth chart was willing to make a play tonight."
The fireworks began with the first drive, as MSU's Jamerson Love turned an effective Troy drive into a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown. Love's score was the first of his career and 11th interception returned for a touchdown by a MSU player under Mullen. MSU's defense has caused a turnover on the first drive in each of its two home games this season.
"It all starts with the pressure up front," Love said. "Then the coaches teach us every day in practice how to go make a play back there."
After being puzzled by Troy's zone-option offense last year, especially in the pass game, MSU (2-2) held quarterback Corey Robinson to a career-low 105 yards passing.
"We got embarrassed,and it's because we didn't play a very good football game and nothing they did to us," Robinson said. "We got taken behind the woodshed and beaten. That's about it."
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 quarterback created two turnovers in the first half that both led to touchdowns.
After Troy (2-2) scored its only touchdown with six seconds left in the first quarter, it gained just 38 yards in the final three quarters.
"I have said this all along, but when you go to a Southeastern Conference town, you usually find SEC teams, coaches, and players," Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. "I don't know how good everyone else is in the league, but I'm glad we don't play a SEC team every week."
MSU's large early lead forced Troy to be one dimensional in the final 45 minutes and eliminated any running threats for the Bulldogs' front seven. MSU moved to 15-2 all-time under Mullen when it holds an opponent to less than 100 yards rushing.
"We knew we needed to keep flying around on defense and we had to keep being positive with our body language," MSU junior linebacker Matthew Wells said. "I feel like we got down last year and let our head hang after they got big plays. After anything they did positively tonight, we were loud about making up for it on the next snap."
Wells led the defense with five tackles in one half. He also had a devastating sack of Robinson that pushed Troy out of a reasonable third-down situation early in the game.
Robinson was 32 of 46 for 343 yards last season against a secondary that featured two future NFL second-round draft picks (Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay). Against a much more inexperienced secondary riddled with injuries after the first three weeks, Robinson didn't complete two passes in a row all game.
"If he gets on a rhythm he will absolutely tear you up because he's as good as any passing quarterback in the country," Mullen said. "We got some pressure on him, (made him make) some uncomfortable throws, and our secondary did a great job in man coverage."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.