TROY, Ala. – The Mississippi State Bulldogs passed their first road test of the season Saturday night.
Even though it was much tougher than expected, the Bulldogs did escape Troy with a 30-24 win to improve to 3-0 for the season for the first time since 1999.
“Terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible,” said MSU coach Dan Mullen as he addressed the media following the game. “I’m proud of our guys. They found a way to win the game. We’re very fortunate to play as poorly as we did and come out of here with a win.”
Offensively speaking, the Bulldogs posted 457 yards of total offense, but it was the six or seven catchable passes that were dropped and the inability to keep drives alive leaves a bitter taste in the head coach’s mouth.
“We put up 457 yards and dropped a ton of passes,” said Mullen. “I’m disappointed in the offense in that we were 4 of 14 on third down. There are a lot of things we need to teach but it feels great to teach them after a win.”
After a first half where MSU capitalized on Troy mistakes, the Trojans were determined to mount a comeback. With two scores in the second half, the home team closed the gap to just two points.
Needing to answer the Trojan momentum, State went on the offensive resulting in a 25-yard strike from Tyler Russell to Chad Bumphis on a fourth down and 5 play, pushing the lead out to 30-21.
“I knew I caught it, but I was just hoping my feet were in,” said Bumphis, who tied the MSU career touchdown mark for receivers with 17.
Mullen was just looking for the first down, but he was perfectly content with the score.
“We were going for a first down and it ended up being a touchdown so we’ll take it,” said Mullen. “It was right there on the edge and they had been scoring so fast, but we had a good play called and we felt we could get it.”
With 7 minutes remaining, the high-octane Trojan attack went back to work needing two scores. Quickly they found themselves in field goal range for Will Scott to connect on a 40-yard field goal to pull within six points.
That’s as close as the treat would come thanks to LaDarius Perkins coming through in big moments. The Bulldogs had the football needing to pick up a couple first downs, run out the clock and pick up the win. On first down, Perkins exploded for a 30-yard run sending State into Trojan territory.
“I feel like it was on me and as far as making the play," Perkins said. "The o-line did their job and I did my job. I knew I either had to break a long one and I had a pretty good one. We just ran out the clock after that.”
Perkins and Bumphis were the two stars of the MSU offensive attack as Perkins carried the ball 23 times for 179 yards and a touchdown. Bumphis, on the other hand, caught six passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns.
“Coming into this season, I worked real hard to get bigger, stronger, faster, and it is pretty much showing right now,” said Perkins.
Defensively, State allowed the most yards since the 2009 Auburn game. Trojans amassed 572 yards of total offense.
“There were a lot of things wrong and it always starts with me and the coaching staff,” said MSU defensive coordinator Chris Wilson.
The bright spot for State was their ability to create turnovers.
“The statistics will tell the story," Wilson said. "The teams that win the turnover battle win the games. We were able to generate four and they had none, so we were able to get a few more points and get the win.”
State opened the game with Devon Bell shaking off his early season woes by scoring the game’s first points on a 37-yard field goal.
The Trojans then marched on an impressive 8-play, 81-yard drive to quickly take their first lead of the game at 7-3.
On the next possession, the Bulldogs were backed up deep starting the drive on the 8-yard line and went nowhere, but a Baker Swedenberg punt was muffed by Justin Albert, giving State the football at the Troy 40-yard line.
The Bulldogs took advantage of the Trojan miscue when Perkins scored from 29-yards out to give State the 10-7 lead.
After a Troy fumble, Russell fired downfield only have the ball go in and out of the hand of Robert Johnson, but on the next play, Bumphis took a screen pass from Russell for a 72-yard touchdown. Bell missed the extra point attempt giving State the 16-7 lead.
On Troy’s next drive, former East Webster player Johnthan Banks came free on a blitz for MSU to pressure Corey Robinson who launched the ball into the air for the waiting Slay who intercepted a pass for the third straight game.
Mississippi State, who played zone defense much of the game, allowed the Trojans to throw the football and moved down the field. It was Troy’s inability to hold onto the football that allowed the Bulldogs to build the early lead.
On the first play after Slay’s second interception of the evening, Russell found Bumphis for a 52-yard scoring strike to give State the 23-7 lead.
The Bulldogs held strong on defense just before the half when in a goal to go situation, State forced a 26-yard field goal attempt which missed wide right to preserve the 23-7 lead at the intermission. It was a play that would loom large at the end of the game.
Mississippi State returns to action next Saturday in Starkville as it will host South Alabama.