When Mississippi State desperately needed a spark against a scrappy Middle Tennessee State squad on Saturday, no one should have been surprised as to who provided one.
Yep. The All-American candidate himself, Johnthan Banks.
With his team leading 17-3 midway through the third quarter following a LaDarius Perkins 64-yard scoring run, Banks picked off Blue Raiders quarterback Logan Kilgore and returned it 46 yards to the MTSU 23.
From there, the Bulldogs scored 28 unanswered points en route to a convincing 45-3 homecoming win in front of 55,108 fans at Scott Field to mark the 21st-consecutive sellout.
For Banks, the interception was the 16th of his heralded career, which ties Walt Harris for the most in school history.
"Obviously that was a huge play for us," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "It really turned things around."
More importantly, MSU improved to 7-0 overall as it now turns its focus toward top-ranked and undefeated Alabama next Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
As for the spark Banks provided, it was immediate.
On the ensuing play, Tyler Russell connected with Chris Smith for an 11-yard scoring strike. Two minutes later, the lead swelled to 31-3 when Russell threw his third touchdown of night, this time to Robert Johnson covering 11 yards.
The Bulldogs, who led just 10-3 at intermission thanks to a Smith's first touchdown and Devon Bell's 32-yard field goal, wouldn't be done with the scoring.
In the fourth quarter, Dak Prescott found the end zone on a 5-yard run, while Derrick Milton closed out all scoring with a 6-yard run of his own.
On the night, MSU totaled 446 yards of offense while limiting the Blue Raiders to just 305. The Bulldogs, who improved their winning streak to nine straight dating back to last season (third, longest in school history) punted just once, while converting 9 of its 12 third-down opportunities.
Through the air, Russell was on fire, completing 17 of his 21 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Smith was his top target, and he responded with a career high seven receptions for 66 yards.
On the ground, Perkins again was a beast, accumulating 125 yards on 20 carries. He has now scored a touchdown in all seven games this year. The only other running back to do that is Adam Muema of San Diego State.