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Dogs find winning combination

 

Mississippi State running back LaDarius Perkins cuts for more yardage Saturday against Georgia.

Mississippi State running back LaDarius Perkins cuts for more yardage Saturday against Georgia. Photo by: David Allen Williams

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State''s football team recaptured its form against Georgia on Saturday, riding a familiar formula for a 24-12 win. 

 

Just a week after MSU head coach Dan Mullen witnessed both of his quarterbacks combine for five interceptions at LSU, he opted to stick with starter Chris Relf for the entire game Saturday.  

 

It was the first time Mullen had stuck with a single quarterback for the full duration of the game this year, and State''s approach with Relf at the helm was noticeably different from previous weeks.  

 

MSU (2-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) ran the ball 44 times and passed 14, returning to Relf''s strengths and helping the offense develop a rhythm.  

 

The junior accounted for 249 yards of offense, 114 of which came on the ground. He had a career-high 21 carries, and at halftime had attempted just four passes.  

 

The commitment to the ground game, which had flashbacks to last year''s Anthony Dixon-led rushing attack, also saw running back Vick Ballard post 78 yards on a season-high 14 carries. Ballard scored his fifth and sixth touchdowns of the season.  

 

"Our passing game compliments our running game, because we run so well," receiver Chad Bumphis said. "Either way it goes we''ve got to stay balanced." 

 

Leading 10-6 with 4:22 left in the game, Relf made his biggest play of the game with his arm. The junior hit Arceto Clark for a 32-yard score on a play similar to the one State had picked off by LSU''s Patrick Peterson last week. 

 

Relf said the overdose of runs didn''t necessarily help him get into a groove in the passing game, though it didn''t hurt. 

 

"It was the same old same old, you know?" Relf said.  

 

"That stuck in the back of my mind," Clark said of last week''s play at LSU. "It was very similar. Same route, except we took it in a little deeper. Relf, he threw a great ball, and me being a receiver I''m out there to catch the ball." 

 

Relf''s pass might have been the play of the game, but Mullen''s decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 37 was the play call of the game. State converted through Vick Ballard, who picked up two yards, and continued down the field for Clark''s score.  

 

"If I''m preaching to our kids ''we''re going to go make the play to win the game,'' I can''t shy away from making a call to go win the game," Mullen said. "It wasn''t even a hesitation. That was a big play." 

 

State''s offense was gifted a lifeline when Heath Hutchins'' punt early in the second quarter bounced off Bacari Rambo and gave MSU possession at the UGA 45.  

 

MSU, however, squandered the possession when running back Ladarius Perkins threw a weak pass back to Relf and was picked off by UGA''s Daryll Gamble.  

 

The trickery turned to calamity, and Relf added to it by shoving a UGA player and receiving a 15-yard penalty. The junior quarterback had just converted a third-and-long situation with a 21-yard completion to Chad Bumphis that set up State at the UGA 13.  

 

"I called one play, and that was the interception on the trick play right there," Mullen said. "John Clark, whose in charge of me, I looked to him and said ''don''t let me make any more stupid play calls.''" 

 

Georgia''s offense, though not efficient at the end of possessions, mounted drives of 80, 81 and 58 yards in the first half but came away with just six points. 

 

Georgia also had a holding call negate a touchdown catch-and-run by Kris Durham and two lost fumbles in the first half. One of the fumbles came after Murray hit running back Washaun Ealy to get UGA inside the MSU 5-yard line.  

 

"We had a turnover inside the red zone and a penalty on a touchdown that got called back, so that''s at least one touchdown and possibly two touchdowns right there that got taken away," Georgia head coach Mark Richt said.  

 

Georgia redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray finished the game with 18 of 31 completions for 274 yards as Georgia (1-3, 0-3) struggled to consistently run the ball.  

 

Mullen was pleased to see Relf shoulder the load, lauding the performance despite a pair of fumbles. He felt the gameplan was being executed, which is why he didn''t bring Russell in the game. The rotation will continue, Mullen said.  

 

"I was pretty pleased with Chris'' performance. He did a good job of managing the game," Mullen said. "At times, I was about to put in Tyler. Chris was loose with the ball, fumbled the ball a couple of times, and you can''t run loose with it."

 

 

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