Photo courtesy of Mississippi State Athletics
NCAA FOOTBALL BOWLS PAGE
(Sports Network) - Vick Ballard had two long touchdown runs Friday to lead Mississippi State to a 23-17 win over Wake Forest at the Music City Bowl.
Ballard had touchdown runs of 60 and 72 yards and finished the game with 180 yards on 14 carries. Chris Relf threw for 129 yards, one score and two interceptions on 12-of-19 passing and also carried the ball 15 times for 64 yards for the Bulldogs (7-6), who won their last two games.
"We were sloppy at some times, we were good at some times," said Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen. "But we made the plays we needed to at the end."
Tanner Price was 24-of-46 with 214 yards while Brandon Pendergrass and Tommy Bohanon both had a rushing touchdown for the Demon Deacons (6-7), who lost five of their final six games of the season.
"We played hard enough to win, but we didn't play well enough to win," said Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe. "We played good defensive football, except for the big plays."
The teams traded a pair of punts to start the game, but LaDarius Perkins fumbled on a running play and Wake Forest recovered at the Mississippi State 34.
That led to nothing, though, as the Deacons had to punt, but another fumble from the Bulldogs, this one by Ballard, saw Wake Forest take over at the Bulldogs' 38.
Six plays later, Pendergrass took a handoff around the left end and scampered into the end zone on a 14-yard score to give his team a 7-0 lead with 4:24 left in the first.
However, the Bulldogs answered quickly as the third play of their ensuing drive saw Ballard take the ball through a huge hole at right tackle and run untouched into the end zone on a 60-yard score.
Wake Forest got into scoring position and attempted a 33-yard field goal from Jimmy Newman, but Johnthan Banks raced around the right side for the block and Mississippi State took over near midfield.
After Relf rushed the ball for 27 yards on the first play, he hit a wide-open Arceto Clark for a 31-yard score. Derek DePasquale missed the extra point and the Bulldogs held a 13-7 lead with 12:41 left in the second.
DePasquale made up for the miss later in the second quarter when he was good from 33 yards out to give the Bulldogs a 16-7 lead with 5:44 left in the first half.
Facing a 4th-and-1, Wake Forest was successful on a fake punt, but ultimately had to punt the ball away and Mississippi State got it back with 1:39 to play.
The Bulldogs drove down to the Wake Forest nine-yard line with six seconds left and opted for one more shot, but Duran Lowe came up with the leaping interception in the back of the end zone.
The Deacons started the second half with the ball and needed just four minutes and seven plays to move 64 yards with Bohanon bulling the ball in from a yard out to make it a 16-14 contest.
The score stayed that way until early in the fourth quarter when Ballard took a handoff up the middle and raced into the end zone on a 72-yard score for a 23-14 lead with under 13 minutes to play.
"I was just able to find a crease there and hit it," said Ballard. "The other 10 guys did their job and I was able to take advantage of their hard work."
The Deacons later got a 46-yard field goal from Newman to make it a one-score game with 3:27 to play and held the Bulldogs to a three-and-out, but then failed to get a first down and the Bulldogs killed off the rest of the clock.