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2011 Music City Bowl Recap

Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs Miss. State Bulldogs - Mississippi State 23, Wake Forest 17

The Mississippi State Bulldogs turned the ball over four times on Friday night at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee. They also turned the ball over on downs late in the third quarter. They held the ball for only 24 minutes and 10 seconds. They were only 5 of 13 on third downs.

They won.

Yes, in yet another example of how the statistics hardly tell the full story in a football game, Mississippi State fought past Wake Forest in a sloppy Music City Bowl. MSU won its fifth straight bowl game as a program, but that doesn’t mean this victory possessed any style points. The next to last night of 2011 witnessed two mediocre teams doing just enough to stifle their own momentum and keep this game close by dint of their inconsistency, not their excellence.

Wake Forest jumped to a quick 7-0 lead, but Mississippi State running back Vick Ballard – who roared for 180 yards in this game – answered with a 60-yard touchdown run. Wake Forest then mounted another strong drive, but Mississippi State swallowed up a 33-yard field goal try by the Demon Deacons to change the momentum of this contest on a dime. Mississippi State scored the next nine points to grab a 16-7 lead, and the Bulldogs drove to the Wake 9 with six seconds left in the first half, owning a chance to land a kill shot. Instead, quarterback Chris Relf inexplicably threw an interception in the end zone, putting the ball in jeopardy when he had no business taking any risks. MSU forfeited momentum just before the intermission, and Wake seized the baton at the beginning of the third quarter, scoring a quick touchdown to pull within two points at 16-14.

That momentum didn’t last very long.

Wake quarterback Tanner price repeatedly failed to hit open receivers throughout a dreadful second half. Price hit just 24 of 46 passes for only 214 yards, and it was his lack of accuracy which prevented the Deacons from stringing together two or three high-quality possessions against Mississippi State. When Ballard busted loose for another long TD run (this one covering 72 yards), the Bulldogs claimed a 23-14 lead and, as it turned out, just enough points to survive. Wake did mount a final comeback attempt, registering a field goal and then getting the ball back with a chance to win, but Price threw three straight incompletions – two of them to wide-open receivers – thereby creating this game to end not with a bang, but a whimper.

It was an appropriate ending to a game that failed to move the needle in Nashville.

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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