HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - 36-thousand fans turned out for the 9 p.m. game and everyone in attendance witnessed a closer then expected confrontation.
Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens connected on 30 of 44 passes for 311 yards and one touchdown and had the Bulldogs defense off balance in the first half.
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, didn't resemble a Heisman Trophy candidate...however he did what he had to do to ring up a win. The Haughton, Louisiana native completed 22 of 38 passes for 237 yards and one touchdown.
Prescott added 79 yards rushing and a 7-yard TD.
Prescott said, "It was hard to get in a rhythm. You didn't have that many plays. I think we had 22 plays at halftime and that's not a lot, a lot to get going when you have those simple errors like we did as well. That hurts. So, we get going, get some plays, we're a high-tempo team. We get going fast, we'll be OK."
The Southern Miss offense piled up 413 yards and had the Bulldogs defense off-balance. That defense stiffened when it needed to, late in the second quarter with a goal line stand. The Golden Eagles tried taking a 17-14 halftime advantage. Instead Mississippi State led 14-10.
"I think a huge turning point in the game, right there for our defense, "stated Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen. "A huge boost for our defense to make that stop down there."
Mississippi State linebacker Richie Brown of Long Beach came up with his fourth career interception against Southern Miss with this third quarter pick.
Brown said, "It was just running to the ball as usual and good things happen when you run to the ball and it was great coverage. Got a nice bounce and you've got to create those turnovers."
Special teams also played a big role in helping Mississippi State close the door on an inspired Golden Eagles effort.
Brandon Holloway's 100 yard kickoff return in the first quarter gave the Bulldogs a 7-3 lead after Southern Miss led 3-0.
Mississippi State won the game 34 to 16, but Bulldogs coaches and players say Southern Miss is a much improved football team.
Mississippi State opens SEC play 8:15 p.m. next Saturday in Starkville hosting LSU. The Tigers game against McNeese State was canceled due to lightning.
Southern Miss will battle Austin Peay 2:30 on Saturday in Hattiesburg.