November 25, 2012 1:06:07 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
OXFORD -- The Mississippi State University football team tried just about everything it could to spark a moribund running game.
The University of Mississippi, which entered the 109th edition of the rivalry game ranked eighth in the Southeastern Conference in rush defense allowing 142.73 yards rushing per game, completely shut down the Bulldogs for 30 yards on 25 carries. It is the second lowest rushing total Ole Miss (6-6, 3-5 SEC) has allowed this season, only falling short to the 14 rushing yards they surrendered Sept. 22 at Tulane University.
MSU tried outside runs with junior tailback LaDarius Perkins, who had 45 yards rushing, and even option play calls with junior quarterback Tyler Russell. Saturday's 41-24 loss to Ole Miss marked
only the third game Perkins has been held under 50 yards in game and the Bulldogs are 0-4 in games where he didn't produce that mark.
"We'll go through the film and watch it but we didn't think they were overloading us (on the line of scrimmage)," MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning said.
The mark matches the lowest run total by a MSU squad since Dan Mullen took the head coaching job in Starkville in 2009. The previous low mark was 30 yards in a home loss to LSU.
Mullen said injuries to two offensive linemen contributed to MSU's problems in the running game.
"It's people that are a little bit banged up, and this time of year you have to play with some pain," Koenning said.
Right tackle Charles Siddoway left the game with an unknown injury. Senior guard Tobias Smith failed to play throughout the first half due to knee and ankle injury problems that have plagued the Columbus native this season.
"I don't know if it was weather or what it was with Tobias that made him think in pregame warmups he couldn't go, but I think that hurt us a lot early on," Mullen said.
Lewis ignites MSU with longest play in Egg Bowl history
Jameon Lewis' bang or bust element showed up Saturday night as the sophomore speedster quieted the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Lewis' return, the longest play in the 109-game history of the in-state rivalry, followed a 25-yard touchdown pass by Ole Miss on its first drive.
"It was all set up for me and I just ran basically," Lewis said. "I didn't have much to do with the play after the blocking happened in front of me."
It was the first kick return for a touchdown for MSU (8-4, 4-4) since Leon Berry accomplished the feat in 2010 against Alcorn State University. Before the play, where Lewis went nearly untouched from the goal line, Lewis' longest return of the season and MSU's longest effort of the 2012 season had been 49 yards against the University of South Alabama.
MSU struggles in red zone again
MSU continued to fail to convert inside the opponent's 20-yard-line. On two occasions in the first half, the Bulldogs came away with just three points.
MSU entered the game 10th in the SEC in red-zone efficiency by scoring on just 77 percent of its opportunities this season.
"Lots of big plays both ways, but we left 18 points in the red zone," Mullen said during the MSU radio halftime interview. "Gotta score touchdowns down there."
MSU's first opportunity was stopped after a fourth-down jump pass by redshirt freshman quarterback Dak Prescott fell incomplete. It was Prescott's first attempt of the game with six minutes left in the half. Prescott had -1 total yards and two incomplete passes.
After using Prescott inside the goal line, the roll-out pass on third down fell incomplete. Freshman kicker Devon Bell's 23-yard field goal tied the score at 17 at halftime.
"It's frustrating," MSU senior wide receiver Chad Bumphis said. "You get in the red zone you have to score, and we didn't do that."