Posted by Jerry Hinnen
MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: Despite suspending five players just before kickoff, the Bulldogs manhandling the overmatched Tigers from the opening kick, taking a 24-0 second-quarter lead and racking up 405 yards of offense by halftime. Running back Vick Ballard finished with a career-high 166 yards on 16 carries and three touchdowns, and the Bulldog offense as a whole set a school record with 645 total yards.
WHY MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: The overwhelming advantage in talent and coaching over one of the worst teams in FBS, mostly. But State fans will be happy to see an offense that looked sluggish for much of 2010 flash some serious big-play potential. Chris Relf threw several precision deep passes, connecting for scores of 44 and 35 yards, and Ballard broke loose for touchdown runs of 35 and 66 yards. Redshirt freshman receiver Jameon Lewis even added an 80-yard score in garbage time.
If any of the suspended players were truly missed, it was starting defensive tackle Fletcher Cox; the Tigers found enough room up the middle for running backs Billy Foster, Artaves Gibson, and Jerrell Rhodes to average a healthy 5 yards per-carry and combine for a total of 170. But Memphis's passing game (quarterbacked by first-year starter Andy Summerlin and true freshman Taylor Reed) was no match for the veteran Bulldog secondary, which held the Tigers to a miserable 4.2 yards per-attempt through three quarters. Much stronger foes await (starting with Auburn in Week 2), but the MSU defensive backfield looks SEC-ready.
WHEN MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: Tempting as it is to say "as soon as they successfully negotiated walking down the tunnel into the stadium," Memphis looked like they'd gained a modicum of second-quarter momentum when they foiled a State fake punt, turned it into a 21-yard Foster touchdown, and forced MSU to start their next drive at their own 2. But State went 98 yards in 5 plays to go up 31-7 with 1:51 left before the half, ending whatever shreds of competitive drama remained.
WHAT MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: By scheduling the game for Thursday, a couple of days extra preparation for Auburn. And by scheduling Memphis, a healthy sense of confidence that should let Mullen make the most of that extra time.