STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Chris Relf threw three touchdowns and ran for another as Mississippi State overcame a slow start in Dan Mullen's coaching debut to beat Jackson State 45-7 on Saturday.
The Bulldogs shrugged off a half-hour lightning delay, 12 penalties and two turnovers to win in the first matchup between the teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference and the Southeastern Conference.
Relf found Chad Bumphis on two of his scoring passes and also rushed for 82 yards. Tyson Lee got the start, but Relf took over in key situations. He was efficient in the pocket as well, completing 7-of-10 passes for 75 yards.
The Bulldogs got plenty of help from the Tigers, who had 15 penalties for 95 yards and five turnovers. Jackson State rarely left its side of the field and Mississippi State scored 24 points after four turnovers deep in Tigers territory.
Mississippi State's defense gave up just 194 yards and nine first downs, and pressured former teammate Tray Rutland all game. The senior, who transferred after his redshirt freshman season, completed 8-of-19 passes for 132 yards with two interceptions. The majority of his team's offense came on two deep passes totaling 81 yards and its single scoring drive.
Terrence Davis scored Jackson State's only points on a 16-yard run against Mississippi State's second-team defense early in the fourth quarter.
Bumphis opened scoring with a 15-yard catch-and-run touchdown from Relf following Jackson State punter Brad Bennett's fumbled snap. Then Relf scored from 5 yards out with 48 seconds left in the first half to go up 14-0.
Charles Mitchell set up Robert Elliott's 7-yard scoring run early in the third with an interception, then helped the Bulldogs to a 28-0 lead when he caused a fumble that was converted three plays later on Relf's 19-yard pass to Marcus Green.
Relf also hit Bumphis on a 7-yard score late in the third quarter. Corey Broomfield locked it up with a 43-yard interception return.
While Mullen's spread offense was hit and miss, it did pay immediate dividends. The Bulldogs never scored more than 38 points under previous coach Sylvester Croom, who resigned after last season. It was the most points for Mississippi State since a 51-13 win over Jacksonville State on Sept. 14, 2002.
Mullen promised at least two quarterbacks would play and stayed true to his word (a third came in for mop-up duty). Relf, though, played much of the second half as the Bulldogs started to pull away and took the majority of snaps. Lee was 8 of 13 for 82 yards and led the team on one touchdown drive.
Two fumbles by starting tailback Christian Ducre, in for suspended Anthony Dixon, set the offense back, as did a pair of missed short field goals by new kicker Sean Brauchle.