A balanced offensive attack and strong defensively play fueled the Bulldogs second half out burst as they knocked off the Auburn Tigers for the first time in four years, 28-10.
Tyler Russell played his most complete SEC game in his three year career in the biggest game of his career completing 20-29 passes for 222 yards and three big touchdowns, two of which went to sixth year senior tight end Marcus Green.
A crowd of 56,111 (ninth most all-time) packed inside Davis Wade Stadium Saturday morning for the game that they have waited for since that heartfelt lost just a year ago on the plains as the Bulldogs fell literally inches short of a possible win.
Four years of frustration, three of which have come under Dan Mullen, were finally ended as the Russell knelled on the final play of the game. The score might quite be indicative of just how badly the Bulldogs outmatched the fighting Chiz.
Fanfare was in the air as well as a nice cool breeze that followed a pre game shower. Cowbells were clanging and tensions were high on both sides but the faces of the players told the story early. No one looked intimidated, no one looked nervous. Wide receiver Chris Smith showed it best by coming off the bus with a hard hat on. It was time to go to work.
And go to work is what the dawgs did immediately. Following a trample free entrance to the field, MSU began to drive. Chad Bumphis started things off with a short catch and run that netted 17 yards. An eight yard completion to Smith and two yard catch by Green gave MSU another first down and had them in business at the Auburn 48. MSU would get the ball to the Auburn 29 when Green dropped a wide open pass in the flats. The dive seemed to stall then and there and 36 yard Devon Bell field goal was missed.
The two teams went back and forth through the first quarter and then the Bulldogs had a major miscue. Smith caught a curl route for an eight yard gain but was stripped of the ball and recovered at the MSU 39 by former Bulldog commit, Jermaine Whitehead.
But as the quarter turned, the MSU defense would hold inside the 10 and force a Cody Parkey 23 yard field goal to give the Tigers the 3-0 advantage early in the second.
But this would be the beginning of two big answers after Auburn scores for MSU. The Bulldog offense would start to click again for the first time since that opening drive. State pushed it down the field slowly and opened it up with another 17 yard reception by Bumphis to get the ball to the Auburn 33 yard line. Following a three yard pass to Derek Milton, Russell through a beautiful strike to Green for a 30 yard touchdown and a 7-3 State advantage with 6:53 left in the first half.
Immediately, Davis Wade would stay live as senior All-American cornerback, Johnthan Banks picked off his first pass of the season and ran it back for a touchdown. But it was all for naught as Banks' feet barely stepped out of bounds. And the dawgs were unable to score as the offensive drive stalled and Bell's kick was blocked.
Auburn took over again offensively and managed to manufacture a rare first down. But on 3rd and 7, Kiehl Frazier under pressure in the pocket through another one up for grabs right into the arms of Banks once again. For Banks, it was his 14th career interception which leads the NCAA currently and puts him in sole possession of second place all time behind Walt Harris with only two for the record.
But a block in the back set the dawgs back around midfield and a three and out gave them no points again. Auburn would kneel it out and take it into the locker room trailing 7-3.
State dominated the first half defensively giving up -2 yards passing by Fraizer and forcing him into two picks.
The opening kick of the second half would be bad news for MSU. Ontario McCaleb jetted down the left sideline breaking a couple of tackles on the way to a 101 return and an Auburn 10-7 lead. After McCaleb crossed the goal line the players on the sidelines never faltered. Tobias Smith turned to his offensive lineman saying, "Did you see that? They don't do that to us. Let's go take it back."
And take it back they would. Russell came out as poised as ever completing a pass to Arceto Clark for 20 yards. They moved the ball down to the AU 13 after methodical passing from Russell to Smith and on a roll out, 17 found Bumphis in the back of the endzone for the answer and the 17-10 lead.
That would solidify things for the Bulldogs. A three and out defensively set up a 58 yard drive that mixed and matched with Russell and backup Dak Prescott. Prescott charged ahead around midfield on fourth down to keep the drive going and State would drive the ball to the three before Russell again found Green for the three yard touchdown and a 21-10 lead with 4:31 remaining in the third.
Coming into the fourth quarter, MSU would hit the ground running Nick Griffin started their drive off with a 22 yard run and Green again got into the book with a 19 yard reception. The following play, LaDarius Perkins made a nice cut to get outside and dive into the endzone from 21 yards out for the Bulldogs final touchdown and a 28-10 lead.
Auburn would drive the ball down the field finally only to throw Darius Slay his second interception of the season and that would all but close it out.
For MSU, this is a program builder. A matchup that almost certainly has become mental is finally in the back of their minds and gives them the opportunity to move forward as a program. Mullen finally shut the critics up by beating another West team and I believe there could be more on the way with the recent setbacks of A&M and Arkansas.
7-0 is not out of the frame of imagination but this is a team that needs to take it one game at a time. A slip up can occur at any point and derail the season. But this is the most focused State team I have seen so far. We shall see how these next few weeks go but that game at T-Town is looking bigger and bigger on the nation's landscape.
State will travel to Troy, Ala. next Saturday to take on the Trojans looking for a 3-0 start on the season.
MSU would win their first conference opener since 1999 against South Carolina and their first win over Auburn at home since 2000.
The Bulldogs also moved Mullen to 17-1 all time when his team has a positive turnover ratio as they went 5-1 against AU (three interceptions; two fumbles).
Johnthan Banks had his third career multi-interception game, tying his games at Middle Tenn. and against Florida in 2009.
Tyler Russell recorded his second career 200 plus yard game and his first SEC 200 yard game.
Perkins had another solid day on the ground rushing 14 times for 84 yards and a touchdown. He now has three td's on the year which is the exact amount he had his entire career coming in.
Marcus Green stepped up to the plate after an early dropped pass catching 5 balls for 54 yards and two tds. He's pulled in three touchdowns in the first two ball games.