No. 23 Mississippi St beats South Alabama 30-10
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — This was exactly the kind of lackluster effort that Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen hoped to avoid.
Yes, the Bulldogs walked out of Davis Wade Stadium with a 30-10 victory on Saturday night. But it was underwhelming in almost every sense, and Mullen appeared more steamed than satisfied with the win.
"It was everything we didn't want to do in a game like this," Mullen said.
But he couldn't argue with the results. Mississippi State (4-0) has won its first four games for the first time since 1999 and has the week off as it prepares to face Kentucky on Oct. 5.
Tyler Russell completed 13 of 27 passes for 171 yards for the Bulldogs while LaDarius Perkins rushed for a team-high 69 yards — including a 44-yard touchdown run.
Nickoe Whitley and Johnthan Banks both had long interception returns that stopped South Alabama drives.
It was the 15th career interception for Banks — which ranks second among active players in the Football Bowl Subdivision — and third this season.
The Bulldogs led 20-0 at halftime, giving up just 104 yards at that point.
"We're pleased with the win," Mississippi State linebacker Cameron Lawrence said. "But we definitely haven't played our best game."
South Alabama (1-3) lost its first game against a Southeastern Conference opponent. C.J. Bennett completed 14 of 26 passes for 154 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Demetre Baker added 49 yards rushing.
The Jaguars are a transitional BCS team that is in just their fourth season as a program. But they managed to hang close for the majority of the first half before the Bulldogs slowly pulled away.
"I am really proud of this football team," South Alabama coach Joey Jones said. "There are a lot of things we can work on for sure. I saw a lot of heart on that football field tonight. I told the team in the locker room that I can handle (the final score)."
Russell tied a Mississippi State record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception (137) during the second quarter, but then threw an interception on his next throw. It wasn't a great game for the 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior, who looked tentative in the pocket.
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