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MSU misses Perkins in backfield


Matthew Stevens



BATON ROUGE, La. -- Following his redshirt season, the Mississippi State University football team has been able to operate on a single constant principle. 


LaDarius Perkins would be on the field and a participating member of the game every week. After a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, No. 27 wasn't in the Bulldogs backfield and it showed in a drastic way during their 37-17 loss to Louisiana State University. 


The Bulldogs junior tailback was held out of Saturday's action with what team officials and MSU coach Dan Mullen confirmed was a right quad injury. Mullen said after the game in Baton Rouge, La., that the injury occurred Wednesday in practice but consistent training staff meetings weren't able to get him healthy enough to play. 


Perkins, who made the trip to LSU this weekend, was officially ruled out by the MSU coaching staff after they saw the 190-pound tailback attempt to execute in pre-game warmups. Saturday marked the first game Perkins was forced to sit out in his college career. 


"It hurts not having your star player out there," MSU sophomore tailback Nick Griffin said. "But we just got to step up as a team and execute without (him). We knew it was a game-time thing." 


Two weeks ago, Perkins was leading the Southeastern Conference in rushing but after just 80 combined yards by the Bulldogs star in the backfield against No. 1 University of Alabama and No. 15 Texas A&M University. 


"Well, obviously he's done a really good job (and) not having Perk is a big deal for us," MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. "We need to get him well and get him back on the field. I'll be a lot happier." 


In the 13 straight games since 2000 that LSU have won, the Tigers have dominated the rushing yardage statistic by over a 2-to-1 ratio in those matchups. Saturday night was no different as the Tigers outrushed MSU (7-3, 3-3 in SEC play) 119-47. LSU is now 49-0 under Les Miles when the Tigers rush for more than 100 yards as a team and hold their opponent to less than 100 yards rushing. 


MSU tied its season-low mark of rushing yards as they had 47 yards against the University of Alabama in a 38-7 loss in Tuscaloosa, Ala. 


Mullen is now 0-7 when his MSU teams are held below the century mark as a team in the ground game. 


The Bulldogs, who gave Griffin his first career start, were unable to establish any kind of run game and the unbalanced attack bothered Mullen when he looked at the stat sheet. 


"I think we continually put ourselves in that position to have to throw the football an awful lot," Mullen said. "We weren't as balanced, obviously, as we'd like to be, but that happens as the result of the score in the games." 


In his first three years in Starkville, Mullen has led the first (2009), second (2010) and fifth-best (2011) rushing attacks in the SEC but that was mostly to being able to turn and hand the ball to a star tailback that would eventually play in the National Football League. 


MSU's three-man rotation of Griffin, Josh Robinson and Derrick Milton simply couldn't get the job done against an aggressive LSU defensive front. 


"I was expecting it but I wasn't sure," Griffin said about getting the start. "I'm still going to come out with my same work ethic and work hard every day. You never know." 


LSU (8-2, 4-2) had three different running backs (Jeremy Hill, Kenny Hilliard, Spencer Ware) leading the team in rushing with five carries and then got four yards a carry from a speed option in converted wide receiver Russell Shepherd. 


"(Mettenberger and the LSU pass game) is going to open up well for the running game," Ware said. "Now defenses can't just scheme on our run game. They are going to have to scheme on our run game and our improving pass game." 


Mullen did not comment on Perkins' long-term health status or if the Perkins, the SEC's third-leading rusher, would be available when the Bulldogs return home this week against the University of Arkansas for Senior Day at Davis Wade Stadium Saturday (11:21, SEC Network).



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