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Saturday, September 8, 2012
Instant analysis: Miss. St. 28, Auburn 10

By David Helman


It took four seasons, but Mississippi State finally defeated an SEC West opponent other than in-state rival Ole Miss during Dan Mullen's tenure there. The Bulldogs improved to 2-0 on the season with a 28-10 beatdown of Auburn on Saturday. Here's how it unfolded in Starkville, Miss.

It was over when: Tyler Russell rolled right and connected with Chad Bumphis for a 13-yard touchdown to take a 14-10 third-quarter lead. The score capped a nine-play drive that negated the momentum of Onterio McCalebb's kickoff return touchdown just moments before. Auburn's anemic offense could not answer the challenge. From that point on, the Bulldogs outscored the Tigers 14-0, and they forced three turnovers in a second-half thrashing.

Game ball goes to: Russell, who proved the point of what good, mistake-free quarterback play means to a team. Russell completed 20 of 29 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns with no picks. His counterpart, Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier, was an atrocious 13-of-22 for just 125 yards and three interceptions with two fumbles.

Unsung hero: Bulldogs running back LeDarius Perkins averaged an impressive 6yards per carry on just 14 touches on the way to 83 yards and a TD. Perkins' 21-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run came at the expense of no fewer than five Auburn defenders, players he embarrassed at various points on the path to pay dirt.

Ball hawk: Beastly Bulldogs cornerback Johnthan Banks stepped up huge in the first big SEC tilt of the season. The 6-foot-2 senior picked off Frazier twice in the first half, killing two Auburn drives in the process.

What it means: Everything to the Bulldogs, but probably not much in the grand scheme of things. This is Mullen's first division win against anyone but lowly Ole Miss, and it serves as a statement for how far the program has come since he took the job in 2009. That said, if this game is any indication, both of these teams have a lot of work ahead of them to catch SEC West elites such as Alabama and LSU. For Auburn, this might be a sign of a long season ahead. The Tigers are 0-2 after mustering just 216 total yards, and their offense scored just three points on the afternoon.