The Meridian Star
The Mississippi State University Bulldogs responded to the season opener's single-digit point total by tying the program's ninth best offensive yard output en route to a 51-7 home-opener victory over Alcorn State on Saturday.
"That was a great win for us," Mississippi head coach Dan Mullen said. "I thought our guys came out and played hard today, right from the opening whistle all the way to the end."
In the win, Mullen and his staff were forced to use underclassmen support due to seven starter out with injuries.
Most notably, but expected, was the lack of quarterback Tyler Russell, who sustained a concession last week against Oklahoma State. Backup Dak Prescott filled in for his first career start.
"Everything was good, it was just comfortable out there," Prescott said. "It was good that [there] was a first incompletion, got it out the way early. I think that helped me throughout the game … We got on a rhythm, we were comfortable and everybody did a good job, everybody did their one-and-eleventh out there … It was good to get going as an offense and score some points."
As a team, the Bulldogs rushed for 277 yards and passed for 279, for a total of 556 offensive yards.
Prescott wasn't alone in the feat, with six others making first career starts. Additionally, by the end of the game, 25 freshman and a total of 70 Bulldogs received playing time in the blowout.
"A lot of young guys got reps and the opportunity to be out on the field, got to be able to show what they can do," Mullen said. "I thought Dak came out, played well and did a good job in the first half. He made some good reads, managed the offense well, made plays when we need him to make them."
Prescott finished the game 12 for 19 on 174 yards for two touchdown. He rushed for 22 yards.
With a 37-0 lead at halftime, Mullen and his staff elected to be cautious at quarterback and give true-freshman Damian Williams the reigns on the field. He led the team to an additional 14 points on the ground.
"With only have the three quarterbacks on scholarship right now for us, had to make sure we, one, keep Dak healthy; two, make sure Damian is ready for if his number is called," Mullen said.
On the Bulldogs' first drive of the game, Prescott, a sophomore, rushed 11 yards for a touchdown with 9:22 remaining in the first quarter. Sophomore Derrick Milton recorded his first touchdown since Oct. 20, 2012, with a 3-yard run three minutes later for a 14-0 lead.
The second quarter opened almost identically, but with Milton again on the score. He caught a 14-yard pass from Prescott to make it 21-0.
Having made his collegiate debut earlier in the game, Ashton Shumpert proved to be the asset the coach staff had hoped for as they waived his redshirt. Shumpert punched in two touchdowns from the 1-yard line, his first made it 34-0 in the in the second quarter. He'd repeat the play in the third for a 44-0 lead.
"We only had five seniors even dress out … we decided we gotta get guys ready to go play," Mullen said. "[Shumpert] showed he can carry the load for us if we need him to in a game."
Shumpert led the Bulldogs with 98 rushing yards.
It wasn't just on offense that the youth prevailed. Defense and special teams were also represented.
Redshirt-freshman Brandon Holloway opened the second half by returning a kickoff for 95 yards, setting up Shumpert's second touchdown of the afternoon.
"[Holloway] has a lot of speed and he is an electric player in the open field," Mullen said. "We want to make sure we get him in the open field and we were able to do that today. We've seen that in practice from him, so we know he can make big plays."
On defense, freshman Chris Jones started in place of Denico Autry. He made a solo tackle and assisted on a second in his first game in his Starkville debut.
Jameon Lewis caught Prescott's second touchdown pass for a 31-yard completion in the second quarter. Nick Griffin ran in the final score of the game from the 10-yard line with 5:00 left in regulation.