TROY, Ala. (AP) — Mississippi State's Tyler Russell and Chad Bumphis looked like they were playing catch in the backyard at times and LaDarius Perkins kept churning out big runs.
Russell and Bumphis hooked up on touchdown passes of 72, 58 and 25 yards and Perkins rushed for a career-high 179 yards to help lead Mississippi State to a 30-24 victory over Troy on Saturday night and overcome some defensive lapses.
Coach Dan Mullen found a lot to be desired from the performance. He called the defensive effort "terrible," then repeated the word three times. It was good enough, though.
"We didn't play very well in the second half but when we needed to make a play, we made them," Mullen said. "But the story of the day is that we didn't play well on the defensive side of the ball at all. We're very fortunate to play as poorly as we did and come out of here with a win."
The Bulldogs (3-0) finished their scoring with Bumphis's 25-yarder at the back of the end zone on fourth-and-4 with 7:00 left on a play that he had dropped earlier. That proved enough in the latest Sun Belt scare against a Southeastern Conference team.
"The way the safeties were playing, it was going to be open no matter when we ran it," said Bumphis, whose 17 touchdown catches ties the school career mark shared with Eric Moulds and Justin Jenkins
The Trojans (1-2) stayed within striking distance with Will Scott's 40-yard field goal three minutes later in Troy's first time hosting an SEC team. Perkins helped the Bulldogs run out the clock.
It was a game of milestones for Mullen's team.
Mississippi State is off to its first 3-0 start since 1999 and has won 13 consecutive nonconference games.
The Bulldogs were coming off a 28-10 win over SEC West rival Auburn and trying to avoid a letdown.
"Coach Mullen was just talking about in the past we had lost games like that, but this time we got over the hump and won a big-time game," Perkins said.
Bumphis tied the school record with three touchdown catches in a game, set by Sammy Milner against Florida in 1969. He had six catches for a career-high 180 yards.
It's the first time the Bulldogs have had a 175-yard rusher and receiver in a game.
The Trojans didn't go quietly with the school-record 29,013 fans envisioning an upset a la Louisiana-Monroe-Arkansas a week ago and Western Kentucky over Kentucky.
"It's a game we should have won and could have won," linebacker Kanorris Davis said. "We've got to put an end to all the penalties, mistakes and all that foolishness out there on the field. Sun Belt, SEC, it doesn't matter. We go to compete. "
Both offenses pretty much had their way.
Troy outgained Mississippi State 572-457 but committed four turnovers in the first half, leading to 20 points for the Bulldogs.
"We had plenty of chances to win the game and that hurts even more," Trojans coach Larry Blakeney said. "The kids were crushed.
"I'm not the least bit disappointed except for the turnovers. I'm encouraged, but we can't do all the things we do to hurt ourselves and beat good teams."
Russell, the reigning SEC offensive player of the week, completed 11 of 26 passes for 244 yards and the three touchdowns.
Corey Robinson directed the Trojans' fast-paced offense by going 32-of-45 passing for 343 yards. He was intercepted twice by Darius Slay, who has four picks in three games.
"It's very frustrating to move the ball up and down the field on a team like that and not get it in the end zone," Robinson said.
Shawn Southward rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
The Trojans kept answering against a defense that had given up 10 points total in the first two games.
Justin Albert cut through a sizable hole in the line for a career-long 31-yard touchdown with 12:40 left to cut Mississippi State's lead to 23-21. The Trojans had been down 23-7 before Southward's 3-yard score late in the third.
While Robinson pecked away with largely short passes, Russell feasted on the big play and avoided mistakes.
He had 10 yards passing before Bumphis took a screen pass 72 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter. Devon Bell's missed extra point left the Bulldogs' lead at 16-7.
Russell found Bumphis streaking by himself down the field for the 58-yarder on the first play after Slay's second interception. He hung in there in the face of an incoming blitz before launching the long ball.
Bumphis and the receivers did have some drops, though.
"The receivers, we did everything we could to lose the game," he said. "We've just got to keep our heads up. We're going to have to make plays down the road."