A strong first half on defense and a balanced attack offensively led to a comfortable win for Mississippi State as they take down the Kentucky Wildcats, 27-14.
Chad Bumphis tied a career high with nine receptions while breaking the all-time touchdown receptions record with 18 and garnering his first 100 yard game in the SEC. The nine catch 104 yard game was a big reason the Bulldogs advanced to 5-0 on the season.
With the emergence of the passing game, MSU was able to keep a steady ground game going putting up 165 yards up on the board led by Ladarius Perkins' 113 yard game on 25 carries with a 31 yard TD to his credit.
The game began with a dominating opening possession for the Bulldogs.Starting from their own 15, MSU marched 85 yards down the field lead by 6-8 passing for Russell. State converted both first downs on the drive with the second one being a roll out, throw back screen to fullback Adrian Marcus for his first career catch and a 10 yard Bulldog touchdown. The opening State drive went 13 plays and 5:53 minutes long.
State would then bring out the defense and shut down UK on three plays and just three yards. The Bulldogs took over at their own 21, but after nine plays and 26 yards were forced to punt.
Another UK three-and-out netted just one yard and gave State the ball at their own 39. It was there that State would turn to its running game. Faced with a fourth and three, Dak Prescott came into the ball game and went straight ahead for the first down. Immediately following, Perkins burst through the secondary and into the endzone for his sixth touchdown run of the year and a MSU 14-0 lead with 1:30 left in the first.
True freshman quarterback, Patrick Towles, then had his redshirt removed as he made his first appearance of the year. The UK native and Gatorade player of the year in the state, immediately showed why he was so coveted. The gunslinger drove the Wildcats 80 yards down the field as the drive was culminated with a 32 yard pitch and catch to La'Rod King. The 4:29 minute drive ended in 10 plays and cut the Bulldog lead to 14-7 in the second quarter.
Both teams traded punts and then MSU would take the ball 52 yards in 11 plays. However, UK was able to get the stop inside the five yard line and freshman Devon Bell was called upon to continue his hot streak and continue he would. Bell hit from 20 yards out on a chip shot to give MSU the 17-7 lead with under two minutes remaining.
Starting the next drive, Towles dropped back for a pass and was sacked hard by Denico Autry inside their own five. It was Autry's second sack of the season and played a major role on the rest of the ball game as Towles would not return in the second half with an injured ankle. A punt just three plays later gave MSU life with an opportunity to get points before halftime.
Russell began the drive with an incompletion to Perkins before throwing a 26 yard strike to Arceto Clark and a 15 yard facemask tacked on even more yardage for the MSU offense. But a total of nine yards on the next two completions, meant State would have to settle for a 37 yard field goal by Bell. Bell was true for the sixth consecutive time in three games and MSU held the advantage 20-7 at the half.
Mullen would call the first half sloppy and even drop the word "brain farts" into the word bank. Hopefully the Dawgs would come out in the second half with a little more fire.
But it didn't get much better or worse. State would open with a quick three-and-out against Towles-less UK offense and force a quick punt. MSU would make them pay immediately as Russell found Bumphis on a beautiful strike in-between two defenders for 27 yards and another Bulldog touchdown. The reception by Bumphis put him at the top of the MSU charts all-time passing former NFL great, Eric Moulds with 18 career catches for six.
After consecutive punts, Kentucky would take over around midfield. Jalen Whitlow would put together his best drive of the game taking it 46 yards on seven plays capped by a third down roll out for pay dirt by Whitlow. They felt the game turning with a 27-14 score and 6:22 still remaining in the third.
But that would be the final time anyone would give the scoreboard a hit today and back and forth defensive stops ruled the rest of the game as MSU would kneel the ball game away inside the 10 and take the 27-14 victory on the road.
For MSU, they would move to 5-0 for the first time since that 8-0 start in 1999 and only for the fourth time in the school's history. The win also kept them up to pace with Alabama and LSU at the top of the Western Division.
Russell finished with another solid performance, passing for 269 yards and two touchdowns while garnering a career high 23 completions and 39 attempts. He also went another game without an interception as he now has 10 touchdowns to just one interception.
MSU now faces their biggest challenge the year with pass-heavy Tyler Bray and the University of Tennessee coming to Starkville next week. The ballgame is set to kick at 8 p.m. CT and be broadcast nationally by ESPN2.
RELEVANT GAME NOTES:
The first half defense has been a key for State's fast starts this year. In the first five ball games, MSU has allowed an average of 73.3 yards to the opposing team.
MSU out-gained UK in the first quarter 172-17. It was the lowest first quarter output by a team against the Bulldogs since 2008 when Vanderbilt managed only 13.
The 171 points in the first five games are the most in the opening five since the 1944 team put up 185. Also, MSU has scored over 20 points in each game for the first time since 1985.
MSU continues to hold on to ball games after leading through three quarters. Out of the 29 wins by Dan Mullen, 25 of them have come with the lead going into the final quarter. He is yet to lose the lead and the game.
Mullen has also had the SEC East's number since arriving in Starkville. Saturday he improved to 7-3. Four of those wins have come against Kentucky and three of them on the road in Lexington.
Perkins' first quarter touchdown was his sixth of the season giving him one more than he had his previous two years combined. He is also one of only four running backs in the country with a touchdown in every ball game.
When Dak Prescott comes into the game, the success rate goes up. The Freshman has now rushed 16 times with seven of those carries going for either first down or a touchdown.
Russell's big day moved him up another notch on a few lists. Most notibly, Russell tied former Bulldog great, Rockey Felker for eighth all-time in career touchdowns with 23. He's also a couple of games away from the single season touchdown record set at 17.
Josh Boyd recorded a big sack on third down against Kentucky and finished his career against the Wildcats with 16 tackles, 6.0 TFL, and 3.5 sacks.