October 3, 2010 12:43:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- The scoreboard at Davis Wade Stadium showed Mississippi State beat Alcorn State 49-16 Saturday, but coaches and players feel like they should have performed better.
MSU (3-2) turned the ball over twice and didn''t force any from Alcorn State. And after entering Saturday''s game as the least penalized team in the Southeastern Conference, the Bulldogs committed a season-high nine penalties for 75 yards.
The Bulldogs also got a scare from the Braves, who pulled to within eight points near the end of the second quarter.
But for every big play quarterback Brandon Bridge and Alcorn State made, Mississippi State was there to answer with a score.
The Bulldogs responded with touchdowns from Chad Bumphis and Vick Ballard after each of Alcorn''s first-half touchdowns.
And when the Braves flamed out on fourth down deep in MSU territory, Ballard was there to pile onto the lead with a 75-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs posted 566 yards of total offense, clearing the 560 mark for the second time this season.
But to hear MSU head coach Dan Mullen explain it, his team, and surprisingly MSU''s fan base, lacked the fire he expected for what he dubbed a "rivalry" game.
"We were very sloppy at times with different things and things that will hurt us down the road," Mullen said. "We didn''t play with the emotion and passion we did last week.
"I think the stadium felt that way. Everybody in the Mississippi State program, from our players to our coaches, we''ve got to do a much better job of getting them up and going. Our student body and our fans, we''ve got to create that buzz each and every week."
Still, MSU never looked like losers in a match against previous undefeated Football Championship Series side Alcorn State (3-0), which proved its offense could move the ball against a quality SEC defense.
The Braves, led by multi-talented freshman Bridge, compiled 314 yards of total offense. Bridge, who hit MSU''s defense for its two longest plays conceded this year, was 13 of 24 for 193 yards and a score. He didn''t have a turnover.
"On film, we knew [Bridge] was fast but he came out with a whole lot of speed and threw the ball well," linebacker K.J. Wright said. "Their athleticism is something we didn''t expect."
State''s offense, however, stole the show and debuted a few new looks ahead of next Saturday''s game at Houston.
Running back Vick Ballard ran for 199 yards on eight carries and three touchdowns to bring his season''s haul to nine.
Sophomore wideout Chad Bumphis had four carries for 38 yards, with three of those carries coming while he was lined up at quarterback. Bumphis opened the game with a 5-yard carry and two plays later reeled off a 24-yard run.
Backup running back LaDarius Perkins also took snaps out of the once wildly trendy "Wildcat" formation.
State also used different variations of the pistol formation, which it had employed so far this year but at a higher rate against Alcorn State.
When asked about the gadget plays, Mullen said the approach wasn''t so much about creativity as it was getting more touches for his playmakers.
"A guy like Perkins -- he was on the scout team last year -- he ran all every Wildcat snap against our defense last year," Mullen said. "He has a bunch of experience doing that. Bump was a high school quarterback. I don''t know if we''ve done much of it, even if all this year. We just want to make sure we''re getting the touches to those guys.
"There''s some other guys that got reps out of it at practice."
Bumphis, who said he''s been trying to convince Mullen to let him take snaps at quarterback, got 13 touches in the game and responded with 190 all-purpose yards. Obviously, he was happy to see more wrinkles added to the offense.
"Coach Mullen told me Monday," Bumphis explained. "He texted me and asked me how I felt about taking snaps, and of course I was excited."
State used a 28-point second quarter to escape a narrow 21-13 lead in the period. Ballard had scoring runs of 1 and 17 yards, while Chris Relf, who finished 11 of 15 for 209 yards and two TDs, had a 7-yard touchdown pass to Bumphis. Berry added his kickoff return with one minute and 22 seconds left until halftime.
The Bulldogs took just five total plays to score their second and third touchdowns.
"It was pretty easy," Relf said. "All I had to do is make the right read."
Alcorn, which returns to SWAC play next week against struggling Texas Southern. Head coach Earnest Collins, Jr. said Saturday''s loss should give his players confidence.
"This game right here let us know that we can take punches with anybody," he said. "Our kids fought hard, and it just came down to the fact that they have more depth than we have. Mississippi State was very important for us to see where we were, but it is not important to us as far conference."
MSU travels to Houston next week.