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September 4, 2010STARKVILLE, Miss., - It would be hard for Mississippi State to draw up their 2010 debut any better.
The Bulldogs put on a dominating performance Saturday night shutting down Memphis 49-7 in front of 56,032 fans, the fourth largest in school history.
"I am really happy with the way our guys came out and performed the way they did," said head coach Dan Mullen. "That was a talented team and Larry (Porter) is building a new program there. They have some guys with some playmaking ability so I think for our guys to go out and execute the way they did, I was pleased. They gave us opportunities to make plays down the field and we were able to do that throwing the football today."
MSU scored 49 unanswered points while totaling 569 yards on offense. The Bulldogs aired it out for 372 yards and five touchdowns passing and only had five incompletions on the night. They also added 197 yards on the ground and two more scores.
Heralded redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Russell starred in his first career game completing 13-of-16 passing for 256 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions off the bench.
"It boosts my confidence a lot," Russell said. "This is what I wanted to do, come into the game and do really well. I didn't do that great in the spring game and I knew that I had something I had to do and that was to come out here and make a couple of plays."
Starter Chris Relf hit on 7-of-9 passing for 116 yards, one touchdowns and one interception.
"I thought it was great," Relf said. "I think the offensive line blocked really well and the wide receivers caught the ball. I think we did pretty good."
Naturally the State receivers also had a solid showing with two players reaching the 100-yard plateau. Brandon Heavens caught five passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns while Chad Bumphis hauled in four balls for 100 yards and two scores as well.
"It just feels so good to be back out there on the field," Heavens said. "I thought we did good today executing everything."
Junior college transfer Vick Ballard also had a big time debut carrying seven times for 60 yards and two touchdowns.
"It felt good," Ballard said. "It was just the whole environment. I have never played in front of that many people and it felt good. It was a good atmosphere."
Mississippi State's first drive of the season left plenty to be desired and lasted only two plays. Relf was picked off on the Bulldogs second play from scrimmage by Terrence Thomas at midfield.
Memphis attempted to capitalize on the good field position with a field goal. But Paulo Henriques 49-yard try sailed wide right.
MSU took over and got things going offensively with Relf completing a first down pass to Bumphis before tossing a 55-yard touchdown to Leon Berry down the right sideline. Sean Brauchle came on to provide the point giving the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 10:04 in the opening quarter.
"I kind of knew it was going to be open," Berry said. "All week we prepared when we saw their defense. Their safety kind of bites on everything so we kind of just did a little fake and a bubble and it stopped him."
Russell made his long awaited debut the next drive for State with the Bulldogs pinned at the 9-yard line. He lived up to the hype leading his team 91-yards in seven plays finishing with a 20-yard touchdown toss to Heavens. Brauchle kicked the extra point for a 14-0 advantage with 6:11 to go in the first quarter.
Mississippi State attempted to add to their lead on the first drive of the second quarter but Brauchle's 38-yard field goal attempt went wide right.
The Bulldogs added another score just before the half when Ballard broke loose on a 51-yard scamper straight up the middle. Derek DePasquale booted the point after putting MSU ahead 21-0 with just under two minutes to go.
The Tigers again tried to add their first points of the evening before halftime but Henriques' 48-yard try fell short.
Things did not cool down offensively for the Bulldogs during the half. Russell marched the opening drive of the second half 75-yards and again found Heavens in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown strike. DePasquale's PAT was true putting State up 28-0.
Maurice Langston intercepted Memphis backup quarterback Ryan Williams for the second time on the ensuing possession setting the Bulldogs up at the UM 20-yard line.
Mississippi State capitalized three plays later when Ballard plowed in from a yard out. DePasquale again drilled the point after giving the Bulldogs a commanding 35-0 advantage with 9:45 to play in the third quarter.
MSU continued to roll on their next possession as Russell threw his third touchdown of the night finding a wide open Bumphis for a 57-yard scoring strike. DePasquale's extra point put the Bulldogs up 42-0 with 6:57 in the third quarter.
Russell again connected with Bumphis on the first drive of the fourth quarter for a 25-yard touchdown. DePasquale's extra point was up and good giving State a commanding 49-0 lead.
The Tigers managed their only score in the waning moments of the game when Cannon Smith hooked up with Marcus Rucker for a 27-yard touchdown.
Memphis managed just 237 yards on the night with 196 yards passing and only 41 on the ground.
"Offensively we didn't play well at all across the board," Porter said. "I thought you saw some things from different guys at times but there was no consistency, continuity and no rhythm so no one really got into a groove. Again, it all starts up front. We were trying to throw it and they were bringing pressure and we couldn't handle it the way we needed to. We tried to run it and we couldn't get back to the line of scrimmage so I'm disappointed in our offensive line."
Smith connected on 10-of-15 passing for 111 yards and one touchdown while Williams hit on 10 of his 17 throws for 85 yards and two picks.
Jermaine McKenzie caught five passes for 45 yards while Rucker hauled in three for 45 yards and the lone score.
Jerrell Rhodes paced the Tiger rushing attack with 26 yards on 10 carries.
Mississippi State's defense was led by safety Charles Mitchell with nine tackles, eight of which came in the first half.
"I was just trying to do my job," Mitchell said. "I was excited and wanted to make some tackles. One of my goals was to be one of the leaders in tackles and not to miss any tackles. Last year I felt I missed a lot tackles and I wanted to improve in that area."
Chris White added six tackles including 2.5 for loss while Damein Anderson added four stops.
Devin Jones had the Bulldogs only sack of the evening.
Former MSU transfer Jamon Hughes headlined the Tigers defense with nine tackles and one sack.
"Coach prepared us well," Hughes said. "I feel they just executed better."
Marcus Ball added eight tackles for Memphis while Frank Trotter tallied seven including 2.5 for loss.
Mississippi State will have a quick turnaround Thursday opening up conference play against Auburn on ESPN.