Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom made it official Monday: Tyson Lee is the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback, at least until further notice.

“It’s his job right now,” Croom said. “I reserve the right to make a change, if necessary. By now, I think you know if he fumbles the ball or throws an interception, I’m not going to pull him.”

Lee, an undersized quarterback who played junior college football at Itawamba last year, went the distance in State’s 34-24 loss to third-ranked LSU on Sept. 27 at Tiger Stadium. The Bulldogs (1-4, 0-2 in the SEC) play host to surprising Vanderbilt on Saturday at MSU’s Scott Field.

Vanderbilt (5-0, 3-0) is the nation’s 13th-ranked team, but the Commodores are a mere two-point favorite. Vandy ranks last in the SEC in total offense but leads the league in turnover differential and fewest penalties, something to which Croom can relate.

“What they’re doing,” he said, “is what we did last year.”

Mississippi State went 8-5 last season, playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2000. But the Bulldogs have struggled in every way imaginable this season, starting with their 22-14 loss to Louisiana Tech.

Lee took over for Wesley Carroll as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback at LSU, and he provided a steady hand, completing 17 of 26 passes for 175 yards and a fourth-quarter score. He also gives State a scrambling presence in the pocket, which has helped because of an uneven performance from the MSU offensive line.

Carroll became the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback for the final nine games of the 2007 season. The 6-foot-3 sophomore has handled his demotion well, Croom said.

“It has energized him. He’s a competitor, and I would expect nothing less,” Croom said. “I expect Tyson to play better. When things didn’t work well, I thought he pulled the ball down and made some plays.

“The rest of the team has to give him better protection, run the ball better, make some plays in the passing game.”