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MSU wants to find balance in ground game


Matthew Stevens



STARKVILLE --┬áThe Mississippi State football team has two talents in the backfield. 


Coach Dan Mullen was pleased with how the Bulldogs balanced their use of Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins on Saturday in a 26-20 overtime win against Louisiana Tech at Davis Wade Stadium. Ballard and Perkins combined for 115 rushing yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns, but it was a tale of both halves for the players. 


Mullen said Monday the split between the two was statistically where he'd like it to be for the rest of the season. 


"That's something you like because I want guys fresh when the game's on the line in the fourth quarter," Mullen said. "You can get yourselves caught at times (and say), 'Hey, we need to go make a play,' and we expect our guys to make a play, and that's snap number 80 of the game for them." 


Ballard had 39 yards on 10 carries in the first half, including MSU's first offensive touchdown on an 11-yard scamper on which he dragged defenders on his way to the end zone. 


Ballard, who is now tied for third in school history with 24 rushing touchdowns, said Louisiana Tech was putting at least eight defenders near the line of scrimmage to stop MSU from breaking a big run. 


Perkins showcases his athletic ability as an outside runner and as a slot receiver when he caught the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime. 




Mullen heard boos Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium 


The boo birds were out Saturday in MSU's victory against Louisiana Tech. 


Mullen said he heard the fans' displeasure while on the sidelines, but he joked Monday their reaction wasn't close to how he felt about his team's struggles on offense. 


"I was pretty frustrated at times during the game, too," Mullen said. "They probably were using more polite words than we were." 


Fans booed when MSU struggled in the red zone and when it failed to execute a fake punt on its side of the field. 


When Louisiana Tech got the ball on that turnover on downs, quarterback Nick Isham tied the game with a 17-yard touchdown pass. 


"We're working, trying to get better as a football team and as a program," Mullen said. "It's good that our fans have high expectations. They want to win football games, too. And we did." 




Richt encouraging more crowd noise this weekend 


University of Georgia coach Mark Richt began his media conference Tuesday by doing what he knows best: Coaching. 


Richt's focus was on the fans who will attend Georgia's game against Mississippi State at 11 a.m. Saturday (Fox Sports Net) at Sanford Stadium. 


"I want to talk to our crowd and our fans and want to educate our fans just a little bit," Richt said. "We need a lot of crowd noise. When teams (use) no-huddle, sometimes you are cheering and you might not be cheering at the right time." 


In watching film of MSU to prepare for the game, Richt believes MSU senior quarterback Chris Relf will survey the field and then check to the sidelines to double check the play call. 


"When he looks to the sideline, that's when we need the fans to go berserk because that's when they are going to try to communicate to the line what they're going to do," Richt said. "We don't want them to be able to communicate well. We want them to have trouble hearing each other. We want offensive linemen to jump offsides." 


Mullen said the offensive staff will use more hand signals and the big play boards that third-string quarterback Dylan Favre holds over his head. This trip to Athens, Ga., will be Mullen's first as coach at MSU. His matchups against Georgia as an assistant at the University of Florida with head coach Urban Meyer were played in Jacksonville, Fla. 


"It is the only stadium I haven't been to in the SEC, so I imagine it is going to be a hostile environment," Mullen said. "If we're going to come out on top were are going to have to execute at a high level and have a great football game." 






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