Tyler Russell threw for three touchdowns and 222 yards to lead Mississippi State to 28-10 victory over Auburn in the SEC opener for both teams at Scott Field on Saturday. Demetruce McNeal led the Tigers with a career-high 18 tackles.
With the Auburn offense struggling in the first half, Onterio McCalebb returned the second half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 10-7 lead. It was the second of his career, the other an 83-yarder vs. Alabama last year, and Auburn's first 100-yarder since Tim Carter vs. LSU in 2000.
"All the credit goes to those guys on the kickoff team, I saw the hole and I went for it," said McCalebb. "Mississippi State is a good team. We made a lot of mistakes. We have to go back and watch film and move on." However, it was all Mississippi State after that.
"There bottom line is we opened up the second half with a great kickoff return," said Auburn head coach Gene Chizik. "After that, there weren't a lot of positives. We got ourselves in a hole and turned the ball over. That is a good football team, but we had our moments. We are going to take this day by day and our aim is to improve every day."
Mississippi State (2-0, 1-0) answered quickly as the Bulldogs drove 75 yards in eight plays to regain the lead, 14-10, on Russell's 13-yard touchdown pass to Chad Bumphis touchdown with 11:35 left in the third.
After holding Auburn (0-2, 0-1) to another three and out, State drove 58 yards and took a 21-10 lead on Russell's third touchdown pass, a 3-yard play action to a wide-open Marcus Green, who scored his second of the day, in the back corner of the end zone with 4:38 to go in the third.
The Bulldogs iced the game as LaDarius Perkins scampered 21 yards breaking four tackles to give State a 28-10 lead with 12:33 left in the game.
Mississippi State outgained Auburn 388 to 216 as the Tigers didn't score an offensive touchdown. The Tigers had 91 yards rushing, led by freshman Mike Blakely's 42 yards on 11 carries. Kiehl Frazier completed on 13-of-22 passes for 125 yards to go along with five turnovers, three interceptions and two fumbles. Quan Bray had six receptions for 50 yards while Emory Black caught two passes for 31 yards.
The first quarter started and ended well for the Tigers as Mississippi State drove to the Auburn 19 on its opening drive, but Devon Bell missed a 36-yard field goal. Although the Bulldogs outgained the Tigers 78-34 in the opening quarter, Auburn came up big at the end of it.
The Tigers' defense allowed the Bulldogs to drive 59 yards in nine plays on State's opening drive, but Auburn limited State to seven plays and 23 yards and a forced fumble the rest of the quarter.
Jonathon Mincy forced a State fumble on Russell's 8-yard completion to Chris Smith, and it was recovered by the Tigers' Jermaine Whitehead, a Greenville, Miss., native, at the State 39 with a minute left in the first.
The Tigers, which converted a fourth and one at the State 19, took a 3-0 lead on a 23-yard Cody Parkey field goal with 9:40 left in the second despite having it on the Bulldog 5 with a second and goal.
Mississippi State took a 7-3 lead as Russell completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Green with 6:53 left in the half. Johnathan Banks then intercepted a Frazier pass a play later to set the Bulldogs up at the Auburn 34. The Auburn defense made a huge stop as Angelo Blackson blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt by Bell with 4:24 left.
Auburn's defense kept the Tigers in the game in the first half as State outgained Auburn 157-65. The Tigers rushing attack was led by Blakely, who gained 38 of the yards on nine rushes. Frazier completed 1-of-7 passes for -2 yards and had two interceptions.
Perkins led State's rushing attack with 83 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown while Green had four receptions for 54 yards and two touchdowns and Smith five receptions for 46 yards.
Auburn plays its home opener against Louisiana-Monroe next Saturday at 11:21 am CT and it will be televised by the SEC Network.