By John Galatas, The Sports Xchange
STARKVILLE, Miss.- The Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-0, 3-0 SEC) used 446 yards of total offense to earn a homecoming victory over Middle Tennessee State 45-3.
With the win, the Dogs are now off to the second-best start in school history, behind the 1999 squad which started 8-0.
MSU running back LaDarius Perkins put the game out of reach with a career-long 64-yard touchdown run at the start of the second half to make it 17-3. Perkins tallied 125 yards rushing, and is now one of two FBS players to have a rushing touchdown in every game this season.
Later in the third quarter, MSU cornerback Johnthan Banks picked off MTSU's Logan Kilgore for his 16th interception of his career. Banks is now tied for the most picks in school history and is tied for most among active FBS players.
The MSU defense allowed 305 total yards, but kept the Raiders out of the end zone and forced three turnovers on the night, which now puts them at a plus-17 turnover margin that leads the nation.
Kilgore threw for 159 yards, and said his team feels good about the remainder of their season and will use this game to improve against conference opponents.
"I think that nonconference games are on the schedule so you can challenge yourself and learn things about yourself," he said. "We had a few fundamental mistakes tonight. I have full confidence in our running backs and receivers, and I'm excited moving forward."
Following Banks' interception, quarterback Tyler Russell found receiver Chris Smith in the end zone for the second time of the night to extend the Bulldogs' lead to 24-3. Smith recorded career highs in receptions (7) and touchdowns (2) as he had 66 yards receiving on the night, while Russell had 191 yards passing.
MSU coach Dan Mullen said Russell has previous experience against the Raider defense and was well prepared in the win.
"He's done a great job in preparing. I thought he was very efficient, very calm in the pocket," Mullen said. "I think he's getting more and more comfortable within our offense."
After a quick turnover, the Dogs struck again when Russell connected on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Robert Johnson, his first career touchdown catch.
Mullen said the wealth of depth at the receiver position provides a great balance for the passing game.
"The balance of our receivers allows you to do some great things. We have some experience out there on the field and, as I've said, Tyler doesn't always hone in on one receiver," he said. "Tyler does a great job of not trying to force balls, taking what is given and our guys prepare and we have some depth at the receiver position.
With 12:38 left in the fourth quarter, MSU backup quarterback Dak Prescott gave his team a 38-3 lead on a 5-yard touchdown run, his third rushing score of the year.
Raider head coach Rick Stockstill said he was proud of his team's effort moving forward.
"I told the guys afterwards that I thought they competed their tails off to the very end. We were just out-manned at times," he said. "I told them that there was something special about this team and that I loved their character."
The Bulldogs struck first on the scoreboard as they took the opening drive 74 yards, capped when Tyler Russell found Chris Smith on a 4 yard touchdown pass. On MSU's ensuing drive, Devon Bell made his 9th field goal of the year on a 32-yard field goal to extend the Bulldog lead to 10-0.
Middle Tennessee found an opportunity on MSU's next drive midway through the second quarter when the Dogs missed a 35-yard field goal, and the Blue Raiders responded with a 32-yard field goal from Carlos Lopez to cut the lead to 10-3 before halftime.
NOTES: MSU entered the game tied for its second-best start in school history, and tied for the nation's third longest winning streak (8) ... The Bulldogs lead the series 4-0 which began in 1999 ... Middle Tennessee leading rusher Benjamin Cunningham is out for the season with a knee injury ... With his first carry of the night, MSU running back LaDarius Perkins broke the 600-yard mark on the season ... Chris Smith's touchdown reception in the first quarter was his first touchdown catch of the year.