STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Dan Mullen grabbed the postgame statistics sheet and stared at it intently, searching for something to complain about following Mississippi State's dominant 49-0 victory over Southern Mississippi on Saturday night.
The Bulldogs' coach scratched his head. He scrunched his face. Then he shrugged his shoulders.
"Everything to me looks pretty solid," he finally said.
It was that kind of night for the Bulldogs, who scored on their first drive and jumped out to a 28-0 lead by halftime. Mississippi State was celebrating a $75 million renovation of Davis Wade Stadium and the atmosphere was festive from beginning to end.
Dak Prescott threw for a career-high 284 yards and four touchdowns, including two to De'Runnya Wilson, and Mississippi State racked up 550 total yards in the season-opener for both teams.
"We've got all the jitters out now," Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson said. "There's more to come. You ain't seen nothing yet."
The Bulldogs dominated from the outset, needing nine plays on the opening drive to cruise 87 yards downfield. Prescott ended the drive by finding Wilson for a wide open 25-yard touchdown pass — the first of many offensive highlights.
A few Mississippi State hiccups kept the game close early, but the Bulldogs scored three touchdowns in the second quarter and gained 387 yards in the first half to take control.
Southern Miss struggled in every facet, gaining just 283 total yards. The Golden Eagles' best chance to score was a 30-yard field goal attempt that was blocked and then returned by MSU's Jay Hughes for a touchdown.
"That's a really good football team," Southern Miss second-year coach Todd Monken said. "There's a reason why I voted them in the top 25 (in the coaches' poll). We didn't play our best. We got what we deserved."
Mississippi State and Southern Miss played for the first time since 1990.
The return of the in-state rivalry was announced five years ago with much fanfare — and the Golden Eagles still lead the all-time series 14-13-1 — but that was when the two programs were much more evenly matched. The Golden Eagles have fallen apart over the past two years and have now lost 24 of 25 games dating back to 2012.
Monken said he hoped the Golden Eagles would be more competitive this season thanks to a deeper roster and continuity within the coaching staff.
That may be true eventually, but they were overmatched for the vast majority of the evening against a Southeastern Conference opponent, especially along the line of scrimmage where Mississippi State's strength advantage was obvious.
Sophomore Nick Mullens had a rough night, completing just 20 of 42 passes for 212 yards and two interceptions. He rarely had a chance to get comfortable in the pocket, with Mississippi State defensive linemen like Preston Smith and Nelson Adams in his face the entire game.
Mississippi State was able to use its backups by midway through the third quarter after building a 42-0 lead.
Prescott recovered from a sluggish start to complete 18 of 26 passes. Robinson rushed for 87 yards and also caught three passes for 49 yards. The 6-foot-5 Wilson, who is expected to be the Bulldogs' main deep ball threat this season, caught four passes for 65 yards and the two touchdowns.
Fred Ross also caught two touchdown passes. Ross and Wilson are both sophomores.
Prescott was pleased to see the young receivers have a big opening game.
"Since they've been here, we've been working non-stop, summers and stuff, everything," Prescott said. "It's great to see them come out and be able to perform."
It was an especially good night for Hughes, who hauled in an interception late in the first half before his 68-yard touchdown on the blocked field goal in the third quarter. The MSU senior captain missed almost all of last season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the first quarter of the first game.
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