STARKVILLE • Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead described Southern Miss’ defense as stingy earlier this week.
That adjective had been well-earned by the Golden Eagles, who hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 15-consecutive games entering Saturday.
Running back Kylin Hill accepted the challenge and had already eclipsed the century mark on the ground by the third quarter in the Bulldogs’ 38-15 victory. Hill finished the day with 123 yards on 14 carries and one touchdown and now has 320 rushing yards in two games.
“You can always be better but so far I’m pretty pleased,” Hill said. “All the hard work is paying off. Basically I’m comfortable after one year in the system. I’m feeling more comfortable and can be myself now.”
MSU’s offense was rolling early, led by two touchdown passes by Tommy Stevens. The graduate transfer started the game with nine-straight completions and tossed a 28-yard touchdown to Osirus Mitchell and an 11-yarder to Stephen Guidry, but had to leave the game with just over five minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Stevens was sacked on back-to-back plays and then threw his only incompletion in what would be his final play. He exited with an injury to his right throwing arm and was to be evaluated further Saturday and again on Sunday afternoon.
True freshman Garrett Shrader finished out the game at quarterback for State, save for one play when he had to leave the field for a second time because his helmet popped off. Shrader, making his collegiate debut, completed 7 of 11 passes for 71 yards and also rushed nine times for 16 yards.
“I had a lot of good help around me and that’s what got us the win today,” Shrader said. “I was just in there managing and trying to do what they gave me. We came out with the win so that was good.”
The first time Shrader’s helmet came off, the Bulldogs took a timeout. The second time walk-on Logan Burnett took the field and handed off to Nick Gibson for a 13-yard touchdown just before halftime.
Shear the beard
“Garrett needs to shave that beard, I think that’s why the helmet’s dang popping off,” Moorhead said. “We’ve just got to make sure his beard is trimmed and his chinstrap is buckled a little tighter.”
State’s final touchdown in the fourth quarter came from true freshman Lee Witherspoon, who ripped off a 22-yard run with 2:20 remaining.
MSU (2-0) finished the day with 386 yards – 210 on the ground and another 176 through the air.
“I don’t think they’d given up over 30 points in the last 12 games or a 100-yard rusher in 15 and we were able to do both of those things,” Moorhead said. “... I was pleased with our balance and productivity on offense. We left some things on the field but I think as we progress, we’ll be able to clean those up.”
The Bulldogs’ defense created three turnovers to extend their streak to 18 games with a takeaway. C.J. Morgan and Martin Emerson each had an interception while Marquiss Spencer had a strip sack that Tyler Williams was able to pounce on.
Southern Miss (1-1) finished with 344 yards as Jack Abraham connected on 18 of 26 passes for 234 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.