September 22, 2013 1:23:00 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- So ... about that faulty Mississippi State offense?
MSU players and coaches weren't happy with the comeback effort Troy nearly pulled off last year. A year later, the Bulldogs decided to crush the Trojans' spirit before halftime.
Thanks to most points by a Bulldogs team in a half (45) since 1950, MSU rolled to a 62-7 victory Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.
MSU has scored 82 point in the first halves at home against Alcorn State and Troy. The Bulldogs' output is the most for the program since a 66-22 victory on Oct. 22, 1994.
Following a three-point showing in a season-opening loss to then-No. 13 Oklahoma State, MSU fans voiced their displeasure with the offense and play calling. In two home games against mid- to low-major programs, MSU has averaged 56.5 points per game and 554 yards in total offense.
"Perception versus reality exists here where it may look like we have all the answers because we played great," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "The reality is we're going to have a lot of things to correct, but we'll be doing it with a big smile on our face after a big win at home."
MSU sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott, who drew his third-consecutive start, accounted for 296 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in a little more than 12 minutes leading the offense. The MSU passing attack, which had mostly relied on bubble screens and short passes, exploited mismatches down the field Saturday and averaged 18.6 yards per completion. MSU didn't punt in the game for the first time since senior punter Baker Swedenburg arrived on campus four years ago.
"I have always told him that in a perfect game I hope you don't play," Mullen said. "I don't think that's ever happened here for us, but it's a great feeling to have your punter never play."
MSU (2-2) eclipsed its largest first-half point total since it scored 38 points vs. Northeast Louisiana University in a 59-0 victory on Nov. 2, 1996. Troy, which came in allowing 36 points per game against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, allowed 35 points in the second quarter on drives that ranged from nine seconds to more than six minutes.
"About eight years ago I've seen them put up points in a second half like it was a video game and I didn't want something like that to even matter," Mullen said. "We needed to put them early tonight and not be nervous like last year."
In the first half, Troy (2-2) held the football five minutes longer than MSU and ran 14 more plays but was outgained by 166 yards. MSU needed just 31 plays to achieve 16 first downs.
"You have to get that momentum when you have that young team," Mullen said. "So many young faces are looking around at what to do and how to react to things. When you get off to a fast start, you can just feel it on the sidelines."
Mullen even gave a friendly jab to MSU fans who were critical of the play calling by joking he felt he'd "been too uptight lately" and made amends for that with a throwback pass to the quarterback.
"That was fun wasn't it?" Mullen asked the media after the game. "We got to start having more fun like that from now on don't we?"
Prescott led MSU in passing yards (207), rushing yards (53), and also accounted for a 36-yard touchdown catch on a trick play in the first half. According to collegefootballreference.com, MSU had never had a player since 1960 account for a touchdown by running, throwing, and catching the football. On Saturday, Prescott and junior wide receiver Jameon Lewis accomplished the feat.
"I told him everything better go the right way," Prescott joked after the 36-yard touchdown from Lewis on the trick play. "He got it to me, and that's all that counts in a pass in my book."
After a 25-yard field goal by Devon Bell, MSU had six-straight drives end with a touchdown.
MSU is 8 of 12 on third down in the first half in its last two games. In 17 of its 19 trips to the red zone, MSU has scored, and 13 of those drives have ended in touchdowns.
With two weeks to prepare for No. 6 LSU (4-0), MSU 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 need that extra week of preparation for them," Prescott said. "It'll be a big game, and I expect the emotion to be high any time we play LSU."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.