2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 4 - Louisiana Tech at MSU
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Sept. 24 at Mississippi State 26 … Louisiana Tech 20 OT
CFN Analysis: Okay, MSU, let’s just assume that this was a hangover effect after losing to Auburn and LSU. It took way too much to put away a mediocre Louisiana Tech team, and now it’s time to worry. The offensive line didn’t take control, the running game was mediocre, and Chris Relf was off on his midrange passes. The defense got a huge game from Brandon Wilson, who made 18 tackles, and the Nickoe Whitley interception in overtime allowed the team to exhale, but it was too tough a fight for a team that was supposed to challenge for big things in the SEC West. As bad as this looked, everything will be just fine if the Bulldogs can win at Georgia next week.
Louisiana Tech had what it took to get to overtime against Mississippi State, but it couldn’t manage to come through in crunch time. Nick Isham, even with the overtime pick, came up with a breakthrough game in a tough environment, and the team pushed hard and played well enough to win. However, now Tech has lost to Southern Miss by two, Houston by one, and to MSU in overtime. Hawaii is up next and Isham and the passing game have to be ready to dial up offense to another level – and for a full four quarters.
(AP) STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Nickoe Whitley intercepted Nick Isham's pass in overtime and Chris Relf hit LaDarius Perkins for a quick touchdown to lead Mississippi State to a 26-20 win over Louisiana Tech.
Mississippi State (2-2) scored first and led at half, but could never put the visiting Bulldogs away.
Late in the fourth quarter with the game tied 20-20, Louisiana Tech (1-3) went on a nine-play, 60-yard drive and had the ball in field goal range with less than four minutes to play. But an interception by Jonathan Banks ended the drive.
Neither team was able to generate any offense in the final minutes.
In overtime, Mississippi State won the toss and elected to play defense. Whitley, a free safety from Jackson, Miss., intercepted Isham on the second play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Relf hit Perkins for his first completion since the third quarter, ending a streak of seven straight incomplete passes to end regulation.
Perkins finished the game with 47 yards rushing and had two catches for 22 yards, including the game winner.
Relf was 14 of 29 for 165 yards guiding the struggling MSU offense.
Isham, a 17 year-old freshman, finished 29-of-40 for 228 yards, but he was sacked three times and picked off twice.
Louisiana Tech (1-2) at Mississippi State (1-2) Sept. 24, 7:00, ESPNU
Here’s The Deal … Can Mississippi State quickly rebound? The Bulldogs suffered two straight tough losses in different ways, getting stuffed at the goal line in the heartbreaker against Auburn and getting beaten up by LSU, and now they have to keep their focus before picking up the SEC play again at Georgia. The offense has worked, the defense has been strong, and the team is probably better than 1-2, but a loss now would be truly devastating.
Louisiana Tech hasn’t quite turned things around under Sonny Dykes, and it’s coming off a tough loss of its own. While the Bulldogs needed overtime to beat Central Arkansas, they could’ve beaten Southern Miss in the weather-influenced 19-17 opener and they should’ve beaten Houston in last week’s collapse. Up 34-14 in the fourth quarter, Tech gagged as Case Keenum bombed away for 21 unanswered points for the win, and now it’ll take a special effort to avoid a 1-3 start before kicking off the WAC season against Hawaii.
The last time these two met, Tech won 22-14 in the 2008 opener, but MSU owns the series 7-3 with the first win a 32-5 breather … in 1904.
Why Louisiana Tech Might Win: So far, the Tech run defense has worked well. Part of the reason is the competition, with Southern Miss and Houston not exactly rushing powerhouses, and part of the reason is the defense is doing a decent job – at least until the fourth quarter against the Cougars. The State offensive line is in trouble, with starting right guard Tobias Smith out for the year after suffering a knee injury against LSU, and starting left tackle James Carmon is also coming off a knee injury, but he might be able to go. MSU’s line depth is questionable, and now it’s going on without two key parts of the puzzle.
The MSU return game has been an issue so far, averaging a miserable 14.9 yards per kickoff return and is just average returning punts, while Tech, because of the two returns by Andrew Gullot, technically leads the nation in punt returns and has been excellent on kickoffs.
Why Mississippi State Might Win: Louisiana Tech’s offense has been good, but not good enough. The passing game has been fine, averaging 236 yards per game, but it’s not consistent and it’s not efficient. The running game has been great over the last two weeks, but it took 66 carries to get 233 yards against Houston and it couldn’t put the game away late. Against Mississippi State, Tech has to control the game and be able to match up with the powerful spread offense with long, balanced drives of its own, and it remains to be seen if it can do that against a defense with a pulse.
Tech has also had issue doing the little things right, struggling with mistakes and giveaways with five turnovers over the last two games and 25 penalties on the year. Keeping the chains moving has been a problem, converting just 34% of its third down chances, while Mississippi State isn’t bad at getting off the field and coming up with stops.
What To Watch Out For: Mississippi State needs more out of the receiving corps. Running back Vick Ballard has been used too much as a safety valve, with a team-leading eight catches, three more than any other Bulldog. Redshirt freshman Jameon Lewis caught four passes for 113 yards and a score in the opener against Memphis, but made just one grab over the last two weeks. Chad Bumphis is the team’s best receiver, but he hasn’t broken out with just five passes for 82 yards and a score. 16 different Bulldogs have caught passes, including quarterback Chris Relf, but no one is stepping forward as the main man.
Tech running back Lennon Creer is doing what he’s supposed to do. He hammered Central Arkansas with 177 yards and three scores, after opening up the year with 53 yards and a score. Last week, he pounded out 99 yards and a touchdown on 25 tough carries against Houston, and he continues to be used as a receiver with three catches. He’ll be the main man for MSU to shut down, and with all efforts keyed on him, others have to produce and quarterback Nick Isham has to be sharper. So far, the true freshman has been as good as could be asked for, but he’ll face more pressure than he did over the first three games.
What Will Happen: Mississippi State won’t be great, and the issues on the offensive line will be a problem, but it’ll be a good win with the ground game controlling things from the start. It won’t be the breather that State needs, but it’ll pull away in the fourth quarter.
CFN Prediction: Mississippi State 34 … Louisiana Tech 17
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