Bulldog Football Scouting Report - AU @ MSU

The Game: Mississippi State (1-0) hosts Auburn (0-1) in the SEC opener for both. The 11:01am contest kicks off Western Division action as well with ESPN telecast. The MSU broadcast begins locally at 8:00 on 100.9FM, and the full network at 9:00.

*Mississippi State seeks to win a SEC opener for the first time since 1999 against South Carolina.

*State's last win against Auburn was in 2007, on the road. That meeting was also the last time Auburn came into the game with a loss. There is one Bulldog from that 2007 team still active, though TE Marcus Green was redshirting that year.

*State has served as Auburn's first SEC foe every season since 2004.

*Coach Dan Mullen has won all four his season openers, all against non-conference teams. Counting last weekend against Jackson State and two bowl victories, Mullen teams have a 12-game win streak in out-of-league play.

*Both teams received a couple of poll votes this week, not nearly enough for a ranking though. Mullen has never lost at State to a team that wasn't either ranked or getting votes.

*With all tickets claimed as of Tuesday, this will be the 18th-straight sellout at Davis Wade Stadium. Last week's opener had a listed capacity crowd of 55,082.

*Mullen is 22-17 in three-plus seasons, the second-best start for a Bulldog coach ever for that period. Allyn McKeen won 26 games his first three years, and 34 in the first four years.

The Opponent: Last year the Tigers were adjusting to the loss of their national title team stars, with a 8-5 result and split of conference games. But 2012 looks like the real transition for Gene Chizik's program, with new coordinators on both sides and some marked schematic shifts. There is also the mounting pressure of keeping pace in the vicious Western Division where good isn't good enough to contend. Give the Tigers serious credit for playing a quality foe the first time out, because while the loss means revising ultimate goals downwards it did expose areas Auburn can address for the conference grind. How well these are fixed will settle which bowl is now the holidays goal.

Offense: It's risky judging off a single game's statistics and just by who left. Still there looks to be a real attempt at balancing things out this year as the run/pass ratio was a lot closer to even in this opener than last year's 65% tilt to the ground game. New coordinator Scot Loeffler's background leans towards more pro-style anyway. Soph quarterback Kiehl Frazier is no slouch afoot with 327 rush yards and three touchdowns last year. But on scrambles and sacks he had a net-loss against Clemson. More interestingly, he was a 41% passer in the debut with one interception against an ACC defense. First-start jitters, maybe, or just the first test in a revised system with a new coach calling plays. There is no secret who Frazier looks for downfield. Emory Blake is coming off a 36-catch, five TD junior season; and got the senior year off to a strong four-catch, 109-yard start with the only offensive touchdown. There is plenty more experience at wideout with Trovon Reed, Quan Bray, and Travante Stallworth who had 61 balls between them last year. But they combined for a single catch in this season's debut. And under pressure everyone knows where the ball is going, as TE Phillip Lutzenkirchen must hold some sort of record for clutch catches. The rushing game still has two proven producers in Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb, and they had 188 yards together last weekend. The real key, and a few growing pains, are up front. It will help most to get soph center, already a Rimington nominee, back after unspecified suspension. He's not listed on the official depth chart but most suspect a return. He'd be flanked by John Sullen and Chad Slade who've swapped sides of the ball for this fall. But out on the ends two freshmen are starting and that showed in pressure on the passer. It's a group to develop with only one senior listed in the initial two-deep. For that matter fans assuming too much, too soon about such things as 4-of-13 third downs, three fumbles and six penalties might well remember the axiom about improvements from first to second weeks.

Defense: If the front line looks familiar, well, it should. Three of last year's starters return including 615 pounds' worth of tackles in Angelo Blackson and Jeffery Whitaker. But wait there's more as the ad goes…Kenneth Carter and Gabe Wright, mere striplings at 289 and 299 pounds by comparison, rotate in with no loss in, well, anything. Junior Corey Lemonier also returns at one end after a nine-sack season, and he got off to a rousing '12 start with a pair of baggings Saturday. On the other end Dee Ford missed most of '11 with back issues; he's healthy and starting again. It's a similar story at linebackers as all the current listed starters did so at least sometimes last year. In WLB Daren Bates' case, all the time with a team-best 104 tackles. He made 14 stops against Clemson and intercepted a ball for good measure. FS Ryan Smith was second in stops last week with a dozen, though 24 completions also indicates he was busy helping out in coverage. Jermaine Whitehead, a sometimes corner last season, got lots of SS action with eleven tackles in Atlanta. Chris Davis is an active cornerback for sure, coming off a 60-tackle season, and Ryan White moves up to starter at the other corner. Auburn did give up a lot of completions in the opener, but the average gain was under nine yards so there weren't many big breakdowns in that area. And the unit already shows a knack for getting to the quarterback, something of obvious Mississippi State concern. The question is can they cut down on the average 6.2-yard rush garnered by Clemson against a team which wants to run the ball. Oh, and Clemson's 8-of-17 rate on third down conversions.

Specialists: PK Cody Parky hit all four of his first-night field tries, with a long make of 46 yards. He's coming off a 13-of-18 sophomore season, and also kicks it off. Well, too. P Steven Clark seems right on last year's pace at right around forty yards. Bray did all the returning last week, one punt (five yards) and one kickoff (21) each as Clemson got six touchbacks. Not that the other Tigers did much returning themselves as Auburn had solid coverage.

Bulldog Notebook: With two intercepted passes returned for touchdowns last week, Mullen's four teams have now scored 15 non-offense touchdowns on kicks, blocks, or turnovers.

*RB LaDarius Perkins surpassed 1,000 career rushing yards with a 58-yard outing Saturday in his first career start. He now has 1,046 in 27 games and seven rushing touchdowns.

*Perkins scored as many touchdowns against Jackson State, two, as he had all of 2011.

*Adding receptions and returns, Perkins now has 2,012 total yards and 12 touchdowns. But he didn't catch a pass or return a kick in the opener this year.

*QB Tyler Russell was a 60% passer as backup the last two seasons and 49% as a starter. In his first start of this season he was good on 15-of-24 throws, 62.5%.

*Russell had four starts last year, but by opening the 2012 season he becomes ‘the' starter. In the three first-game outings of his career Russell is 33-of-48 for 569 yards and seven passing touchdowns, as well as one rushing score.

*Russell has now thrown 15 touchdowns in 18 career games, against 10 interceptions. He needs two more TD throws to tie for 10th on the all-time Bulldog list.

*Russell is the 4th-most-accurate passer in program history already, at 55.9%. This oughtn't surprise though, as #s 1 and 2 on the career list also played for Dan Mullen. And in the Passing Efficiency calculations, which takes completions, touchdowns, turnovers into account, Russell already ranks #1 among all Bulldog quarterbacks who threw at least 150 attempts.

*WR Chad Bumphis has caught a pass in all but one of his 38 career games, lone exception coming against UAB in 2010. But he has a single catch in the last four games.

*With now 102 career grabs Bumphis is tied for 7th on the all-time State list with Bill Buckley. Next-up is 116 for sixth place.

*One big gainer would put Bumphis in the career yardage top-ten. He has 1,357 and needs 1,391 to catch Willie Harris.

*That touchdown catch against Jackson State jumped Bumphis two spots on the career list. He's now tied for fourth with Mardye McDole and Jerry Bouldin with 13. Eleven of his TDs have been in non-conference games.

*Bumphis has one of the two touchdowns scored by State wideouts under Mullen on receiver carries, against Georgia Tech in 2009. WR Jameon Lewis (Memphis 2011) has the other. All-told Bumphis owns 2,414 career yards for catching, running, and returning.

*Lewis likes opening nights. He had four grabs at Memphis a year ago and just three more the rest of the season. This year he caught three balls against Jackson State.

*WR Arceto Clark had a 18-game receiving streak snapped in the Egg Bowl. He began a new one with a couple of grabs in the Music City Bowl and three more against JSU.

*TE Marcus Green was granted an extra senior season after missing so many games early in his career. He began it well with three catches, one for a touchdown, in the opener.

*Green has 45 catches in the 30 games he has been able to play, with five touchdowns.

*State did not allow a sack in the opener. They gave up just three in non-conference 2011 games.

*With the Bulldog opening up a big lead early, most defensive starters had short games. DT Josh Boyd was only in long enough to score one tackle, an assist. He now has 93 career stops with 8.0 sacks.

*OLB Cameron Lawrence did stay around long enough to get in on three tackles. In the last four games of the junior season Lawrence averaged over 11 per game. He now has 174 career tackles.

*OLB Matt Wells marked his first start with a team-best five tackles, but more impressively a 22-yard interception return for touchdown.

*CB Johnthan Banks has made known his goal of graduating with the career interceptions record. He is tied for second with Derek Pegues and Izell McGill, all with a dozen picks. The record was set by Walt Harris 1992-95 with 16.

*Banks had four interceptions as a freshman, three as a sophomore, and five last fall.

*He has three pick-sixes at State, which ties him for the active FBS lead…with teammate CB/S Corey Broomfield. Broomfield owns nine career interceptions to tie for 11th on the MSU chart, but didn't intercept a ball all of 2011.

*Now they have more competition. CB Darius Slay celebrated starting the season as a starter by picking one of those interceptions for touchdown, on a 52-yard return. It was the senior's second pick-six.

*On his two scoring returns, Slay has 124 yards.

*S Nickoe Whitley had four interceptions in an injury-shortened 2011, giving him seven for his career. He returned to action Saturday with four tackles.

*Bulldog defensive backs between them now have 30 interceptions, eight for touchdowns.

*P Baker Swedenburg only had to kick once last week, a career-low, and bumped it only 28 yards to pin JSU at the eight-yard line. Swedenburg averaged 41.9 yards in his first season of kicking and was not blocked.

*Two new specialists shared placekicking in the opener. PK Devon Bell, the true freshman, was 4-of-4 on PATS; and walk-on senior Charlie Grandfield 3-of-3. Bell missed his only field goal try, from 42 yards.

*State had seven touchback kickoffs all of 2011, out of 66 tries. There were three touchbacks to open this year with the new 35-yard-line starting position; one by Bell in four kicks and two out of five by K Brian Egan.

*Six Bulldogs have played in all 39 games under Mullen: Banks, Boyd, Broomfield, FB Sylvester Hemphill, and WR Brandon Heavens. None have started every game. Banks has the most Mullen-era starts with 33.

*OG Jackson has the active consecutive start streak, 27 games and counting.

*Five true freshmen played in the '12 opener: PK Bell, DT Nick James, DT Quay Evans, DE Ryan Brown, and CB Cedric Jiles. Only three true freshmen played in both 2010 and '11.

*Eleven 2011 scholarship redshirts finally got on the field: QB Dak Prescott, TE Rufus Warren, OG Justin Malone, CB Taveze Calhoun, DL John Harris, LB Zach Jackson, RB Derrick Milton, S Kendrick Market, LB Benardrick McKinney, WR Joe Morrow, and RB Josh Robinson.

*JC transfers DE Denico Autry and OT Charles Siddoway started the opener, while OC Dylan Holley played in relief.

*Walk-ons getting in the game for the first time were PK Grandfield, SN Winston Chapman, RB Kasey Akins, ST James Baldwin, ST D.J. Blanks.

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