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(Saturday, October 20th)
Final Score: (15) Mississippi State 45, Middle Tennessee 3
Starkville, MS (Sports Network) - Tyler Russell threw for three touchdowns as No. 15 Mississippi State hammered Middle Tennessee, 45-3, on Saturday.
Russell completed 17-of-21 passes for 191 yards for the Bulldogs (7-0), who have won nine straight games dating back to last season and are 7-0 for the second time in the program's 113-year history.
"I think he is getting more and more comfortable in our offense. He made some tough reads tonight and I thought he played very well," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said about Russell.
Chris Smith caught seven balls for 66 yards and two scores, while LaDarius Perkins finished with 125 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries in the victory.
The Bulldogs face another one of the nation's undefeated teams next week in top-ranked Alabama, which is also 7-0 after rolling over Tennessee, 44-13, on Saturday.
"Our guys are going to be excited for the opportunity to be able to go play the No. 1 team in the country," Mullen said.
Logan Kilgore went 16-for-25 through the air for 159 yards with an interception for Middle Tennessee (4-3), which fell to 0-14 all time against teams ranked in the Top 25.
Anthony Amos paced all receivers with 93 yards on six receptions in defeat.
Mississippi State received the ball first and Smith highlighted a 14-play, 74- yard drive that ate up over seven minutes of clock with a 22-yard reception before capping the trek with a 4-yard touchdown grab in the back of the end zone.
The Bulldogs regained the ball at their own 42 following a three-and-out by Middle Tennessee and put together another meticulous drive to increase their advantage when Devon Bell finished off the 11-play march with a 32-yard field goal within the final minute of the first quarter.
Middle Tennessee managed just one first down on its next touch and Brandon Heavens made a leaping catch down the left sideline for a 38-yard gain to move Mississippi State inside the Blue Raiders' 20 on the ensuing possession, but Bell missed a 35-yard kick wide right to keep it a 10-0 game with 9:46 left in the half.
The Blue Raiders capitalized on the miss as Kilgore converted a 3rd-and-7 with a 13-yard scramble and Jordan Parker reeled off runs of 19 and 14 yards to set up Carlos Lopez's 32-yard field goal.
Mississippi State then advanced the ball past midfield trying to answer the score, but Russell had the ball slapped out of his hands by Shubert Bastien during a sack and Middle Tennessee recovered at its own 42, keeping it a 10-3 contest at the break.
Middle Tennessee kept the opening possession of the third quarter alive with a 4th-and-1 conversion thanks to an offside penalty on the Bulldogs that moved the ball to midfield, but the Blue Raiders would manage just one more first down and were forced to punt the ball away.
The Bulldogs responded with Perkins' 64-yard touchdown run up the middle to stretch their lead up to 17-3 with 7:30 remaining in the third.
Three plays later, Johnthan Banks intercepted a deep pass attempt down the left sideline by Kilgore and returned it 46 yards to the Middle Tennessee 25, setting up Smith's 11-yard touchdown reception.
Banks injured his left knee on the play and did not return to the game, but he remained on the sideline and was walking without a limp.
Kilgore again fumbled the ball away during a sack on Middle Tennessee's next touch and Mississippi State capitalized on the short field with Robert Johnson's 23-yard catch on the left side of the end zone on the next play to put the Bulldogs on top, 31-3, late in the third quarter.
Dak Prescott replaced Russell under center for the fourth quarter and Nick Griffin's 44-yard scamper down the left sideline on the Bulldog's first drive of the frame preceded Prescott's 5-yard rush across the goal line to pull Mississippi State further away.
Derrick Milton's 6-yard TD run capped a streak of five straight Mississippi State possessions ending in a touchdown.
Middle Tennessee would not move the ball into the Bulldogs' territory in the fourth quarter until the final drive of the game, but the Blue Raiders came up empty as backup quarterback Jeff Murphy was picked off by Kendrick Market in the end zone on the final play of the game.
"We just couldn't get anything going in the second half," Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said. "I told the guys afterwards that I thought they competed their tails off to the very end. We were just out-manned at times."
Banks' interception was the 16th of his career, tying a school record ... Mississippi State has won 15 straight non-conference games ... The Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 5-0 ... Prescott finished 3-of-4 for 24 yards ... Parker had 66 yards on 13 carries ... Mississippi State totaled 446 yards of offense, while Middle Tennessee finished with 305 ... The Bulldogs went 9- for-12 on third downs.
10/20 23:53:37 ET
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