2011 Music City - Miss St 23, Wake Forest 17

Posted Dec 30, 2011

2011-2012 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2011 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

2011 Music City

Miss State 23, Wake Forest 17

- 2011-2012 CFN Bowl Central

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National Rankings
87th Total Offense 76th
42nd Total Defense 74th
72nd Scoring Offense 61st
19th Scoring Defense 68th
45th Rushing Offense 96th
65th Run Defense 70th
92nd Passing Offense 37th
23rd Passing Defense 72nd
32nd Turnover Margin 30th
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
M   W
3 Quarterbacks 3.5
4 RBs 2
2 Receivers 3
3 O Line 2
3 D Line 2.5
3 Linebackers 3
3.5 Secondary 3
3 Spec Teams 2.5
4 Coaching 5
Mississippi State 23 … Wake Forest 17
- CFN Thoughts on the Music City

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs outgained Wake Forest 253 yards to 63. … Chris Relf completed 12-of-19 passes for 129 yards and a score with two picks. … Vick Ballard ran 14 times for 180 yards and two scores. … Chris Smith caught five passes for 57 yards. … Safety Corey Broomfield made nine tackles with two tackles for loss and a sack. … DE Fletcher Cox made seven tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons were +4 in turnover margin. … Tanner Price completed 24-of-46 passes for 214 yards. … Brandon Pendergrass ran 24 times for 73 yards and a score. … Michael Campanaro caught ten passes for 128 yards, and Chris Givens caught nine passes for 54. … Safety Merrill Noel made seven tackles and a pick.

(AP) NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Mississippi State withstood a late Wake Forest rally to down the Demon Deacons 23-17 in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Friday at LP Field in Nashville.

The game was Wake Forest's 10th all-time bowl appearance and first since the 2008 EagleBank Bowl, and the Deacons now hold a 6-4 record in bowl games.

The Deacons (6-7) fell victim to Mississippi State's (7-6) potent rushing attack as Vick Ballard ran for a career-high 180 yards and two touchdowns to head up the Bulldogs' 255 yards on the ground.

The loss overshadowed a career day for Wake Forest redshirt sophomore Michael Campanaro who caught 10 passes for 128 yards - both career highs.

After the Deacs had fallen behind by two scores in the fourth quarter, Jimmy Newman nailed a 46-yard field goal with 3:24 remaining in the game to cut the MSU lead to six points and Wake Forest followed by forcing a three and out to get the ball back. But Tanner Price fired incomplete on three straight passes to give the ball back to the Bulldogs, who were able to run out the clock and secure the victory.

Wake Forest scored first on a 14-yard rush by senior Brandon Pendergrass late in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs answered almost immediately on a 60-yard run by Ballard and then took the lead for good on a second quarter touchdown pass from Chris Relf to Arceto Clark.

The Deacons pulled within two points at 16-14 on a third quarter touchdown run by Tommy Bohanon but would get no closer as Ballard ripped off a 72-yard touchdown rush to restore the margin to two scores.

Wake Forest's forced four turnovers, its second-highest total of the season, coming on interceptions by Duran Lowe, the first of his career, and Merrill Noel, along with fumble recoveries by Nikita Whitlock and Kenny Okoro to keep the Deacons within striking distance for the entire contest.

Tanner Price completed 24 of 46 passes, tying a season high for completions, for 214 yards. Pendergrass and Tommy Bohanon supplied the two Demon Deacon touchdowns, both on the ground, coming on rushes of 14 yards and one yard, respectively. Pendergrass was the Deacons' leading rusher on the day with 73 yards on 24 attempts.

Chris Givens caught a career-high nine passes for 54 yards. Noel, Justin Jackson and Scott Betros tied for the Deacon lead with seven tackles each.

In addition to Ballard's 180 yards, Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf threw for 129 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 64 more yards.

After Wake Forest won the toss and deferred, giving its opponent the ball to start the game for the first time all season, Mississippi State's Jameon Lewis ripped off a 52-yard kick return to set the Bulldogs up at the at the Wake Forest 37-yard line, but some good defensive play by the Demon Deacons held strong and forced a punt. In fact, the Deacon defense proved dominant early, pushing the Bulldogs back for minus-10 yards through their first two drives.

On the third MSU drive, Wake Forest again came up big as Betros forced a fumble that was recovered by Okoro to give the Deacons the ball at the Bulldog 34-yard line.

While the Deacons could not advance into scoring position on that drive, they picked up another turnover on Mississippi State's next drive, with Jackson forcing a fumble and Nikita Whitlock falling on the ball at the Bulldog 36-yard line. This time Wake Forest would convert, as Pendergrass burst over the left side with a head of steam for a 14-yard touchdown run to put the Deacs in front 7-0.

Mississippi State answered back only minutes later as Ballard broke free for a 60-yard touchdown to knot the game at 7-7 late in the opening quarter.

Newman lined up for a 34-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter, but the kick was blocked giving Mississippi State a much needed shot in the arm. Two plays later, Relf hit a wide-open Clark for a 31-yard touchdown strike, but Derek DePasquale hooked the PAT left to leave the score at 13-7.

With 5:44 remaining in the first half, DePasquale redeemed himself by knocking through a 33-yard field goal to push the Bulldog advantage to 16-7.

The Deacons went three and out on the next drive, but rather than punting after running forward in his typical rugby kick style, Alex Wulfeck shoveled the ball to Josh Bush who just reached the first down marker on the first Demon Deacon fake punt in recent memory to keep the Wake Forest drive alive. However, after advancing to midfield, the Deacs were stopped again on third down and

The Bulldogs looked set to score again just before halftime, but Lowe picked off Relf in the end zone, his first-career interception, to keep the Deacon deficit to nine points heading into the locker room.

Wake Forest got the ball to start the second half for the first time all year and took advantage of the opportunity, going 64 yards for a touchdown. On the first play of the drive, Price found Campanaro for a 32-yard gain to the MSU 32-yard line. After a completion to Givens brought the Deacs inside the five, Bohanon capped off the drive with a 1-yard rush up the middle to pull Wake Forest within two points at 16-14.

Early in the fourth quarter, Ballard scampered for his second long run of the evening, this one a 72-yard touchdown, to make the Bulldog lead two scores again at 23-14.

The Deacons mounted a late rally and Newman hit a 46-yard field goal, tied for his longest of the season, with 3:27 left in the game to make it a one-score game, but Wake Forest could not finish off the comeback.

Mississippi State (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (6-6) Dec. 30, 6:40, ESPN

Here's The Deal … Nashville will be the site of the first-ever meeting between Mississippi State and Wake Forest, who are looking to cap erratic seasons with a winning record.

Since the home states of both schools share a border with Tennessee, the Music City Bowl is hoping to attract a robust audience to its event at LP Field. The Demon Deacons are particularly excited to be here, after failing to qualify for the last two postseasons. Despite the mediocre record, the program darn near represented the Atlantic Division in the ACC title game, a stark difference from the expectations before the season began. Wake Forest jumped out to a 4-1 mark, turning heads with a 35-30 upset of Florida State on Oct. 8. However, it was unable to maintain a high level of play in the second half, dropping four of its final five games. The low-point came at Clemson, blowing a two-touchdown lead in the final 20 minutes that would have captured the division crown.

This was a crucial year for head coach Jim Grobe, who was on the verge of squandering all of the momentum he'd amassed in Winston-Salem during the three years beginning in 2006. Wake Forest isn't the type of school that rebuilds on the fly, or keeps local attention throughout the lean times. By reversing the recent two-year slide, Grobe and his assistants have once again stabilized the foundation for the upcoming years and the next generation of recruits. The staff can really hammer home the significance of 2011 by capping it with an upset of an SEC school in SEC country.

Mississippi State has the same record as Wake Forest, but a starkly different mindset. The Demon Deacons are truly excited to be in Nashville. The Bulldogs? Not so much. Dan Mullen's third team in Starkville began the season with lofty goals, especially after ending a nine-win 2010 by obliterating Michigan in the Gator Bowl. It concluded the regular season, though, with a whimper, knocking off just one team, Louisiana Tech, that's partaking in the postseason. At 2-6, only Tennessee and Ole Miss had worse marks in league play. So what happened to the school that was pegged to be a fly in the SEC West ointment?

After heightening expectations in the first two weekends, the Mississippi State offense basically collapsed under the weight of an inefficient offense that really struggled in the passing game. Over the final nine contests against FBS opponents, the Bulldogs averaged a measly 17 points per game. The lack of production meant a lot of close calls, and a few too many moral victories. The silver lining is that Mullen, an upwardly-mobile object of AD's affection, remains at the helm of the program. No, his stock didn't climb higher this season, but he remains the right man to keep the program from decelerating in its progress.

Players to Watch: The spot behind center was ground zero for many of Mississippi State's problems during the regular season. In an unintended game of musical chairs, Mullen used three different players, and had one, Dylan Favre, transfer on him earlier in the month. Senior Chris Relf was being pitched by the administration as a Heisman contender, but he's thrown just nine touchdown passes, and played sparingly in October and November. While sophomore Tyler Russell started four games, he wasn't much crisper, and is dealing with a knee injury suffered in practice. Although rookie Dak Prescott is scaling the depth chart, Mullen certainly doesn't want to burn his redshirt year at this stage of the season.

Wake Forest has no such problems at quarterback. It's set with Tanner Price for this game and likely the next two seasons. The sophomore has turned the corner in his second season as the starter, throwing 20 touchdown passes to just six picks. He's poised in the pocket, accurate with his throws and not prone to making careless mistakes. In short, he's the kind of leader that the program can build around in 2012 and 2013. Price will look to hook up liberally with ACC-leading receiver Chris Givens, who'll spend most of the evening trying to shake Bulldogs CB Jonathan Banks. The 6-2 Banks has good size, but can sometimes get exposed by smaller, quicker receivers, such as Givens.

Mississippi State and Wake Forest want to establish an assertive running game, but both programs boast interior defensive linemen that are capable of blowing up the opposition's plans. For the Bulldogs, junior Fletcher Cox earned a spot on the all-conference first team, a particularly impressive feat in the talent-rich SEC. He can play either tackle or end, flashing the long arms, quick feet and leg drive to put blockers on their backs. The team-leader in tackles for loss and sacks is going to be a handful for a Demon Deacons offensive line that's struggled at the point of attack throughout the year.

Wake's answer to Cox is sophomore Nikita Whitlock. Although he doesn't look the part at 5-11 and 260 pounds, there's no arguing with his production. The two-year starter in Winston-Salem is cat-quick, and able to get underneath the pads of his man on a consistent basis. A real nuisance for opposing guards and centers, he's made 58 tackles, and has matched Cox's 12.5 tackles for minus yards. The Demon Deacons get in trouble when the other team's backs are allowed to get beyond the first line of defense, yielding at least 175 yards rushing in each of their last five games. The onus will fall on players, such as Whitlock and LB Kyle Wilber, to prevent that from happening.

Mississippi State will win if … RB Vick Ballard vies for game MVP honors.

The Bulldogs need a big effort from their alpha dog and most consistent player on offense. As No. 28 goes, so goes a monochrome attack that can't rely on the play of its quarterbacks. If Mississippi State finds itself in too many third-and-long situations, it'll put those erratic passers in binds that they'll be unable to escape. It'll be up to Ballard to soften an already pliable Wake Forest front wall, using his 5-11, 215-pound frame to keep the chains moving. When the Bulldogs have rushed for less than 175 yards this fall, they've won just one of six games. The program is looking to its best skill position player to carry load, and prevent the quarterbacks from having to perform outside of their pay scale.

Wake Forest will win if … the Price is right.

The Demon Deacons quarterback tailed off in the second half of the year, running parallel to the overall decline of the program. Over the first seven games, when Wake Forest stood at 5-2, the passing attack produced 16 scoring strikes and only four interceptions. Over the final five games, in which the team won just once, he regressed to only six touchdowns and four more picks. The lefty will need to recapture his early season form, when he routinely connected on big plays to Givens, Michael Campanaro and Danny Dembry. Since this game won't be a shootout, no one will ask Price to make Heisman pollsters question their vote. He will need to drag Mississippi State out of its comfort zone by engineering drives that result in six points.

What Will Happen: Wake Forest hosted an SEC team just a few weeks ago, and got thrashed by Vanderbilt, 41-7. Can the Deacons quickly rally on a neutral field to beat its next SEC foe?

Mississippi State used its month away from the game to reboot the entire program, and try to regain some of the confidence it enjoyed in the early stages of September. It'll show in the team's play at the Music City Bowl. The Bulldogs will ride the broad shoulders of Ballard, who'll finish his college career by gashing a suspect Wake Forest run defense for a couple of scores and well over 100 yards on the ground. The defense, which shone in all but a couple of games during the regular season, will take care of the rest by snuffing out the Deacons' comeback bids over the final two quarters.

CFN Prediction: Mississippi State 28 … Wake Forest 16
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Miss State -6.5  O/U 48
Confidence Picks 
Fiu Rich Matt Russ Barrett Terry Phil Clucko PICK
MS (32) MS (10) WF (11) MS (28) MS* (20) MS(22) MS* (16) WF (16) MS (31)

E-mail Pete Fiutak
#CFBnews & #ColFootballNews
Mississippi State isn't going to come up with a Michigan-like beatdown, but it's WAY overdue to start producing more on the ground. Wake Forest will put up a fight, but its defensive line doesn't generate any pressure.

By Richard Cirminiello 
Demon Deacons ecstatic to be back in the postseason after skipping the last two years.

By Matt Zemek
This feels like an even matchup. Mississippi State is not fast, and Wake Forest doesn't handle speed very well.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee  
Mississippi State's season can only be viewed as a disappointment, and now there are rumors of Dan Mullen looking at other jobs. I don't think the Bulldogs will be inspired in this one.

By Russ Mitchell
Not exactly where MSU expected to be coming off the New Year's Day bowl thrashing last year of Michigan, and with a fifth year senior QB and senior RB returning. Yet here they are, playing a Wake Forest team that had a solid season and are happy to be bowling again. Thinking the Deacons will hit a flat MSU team square in the mouth.

By Terry Johnson
Can Mississippi State's success against the pass continue against Wake Forest's Tanner Price, who's improvement led the Deacons to their first bowl game since 2008?

By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
The Demon Deacons limped to the end of the season but largely overachieved. Mississippi State is a big disappointment. Someone gets a chance to feel good.
Best Bowl Moments

Best Bulldog Bowl Moment: Playing through a blizzard for much of the game, Mississippi State defeated Texas A&M, 43-41, in the 2000 Independence Bowl, one of the wilder games in college football's postseason history. The Bulldogs fought back from 14 points down in the fourth quarter, winning the game on a blocked extra point that was returned for a two-pointer, followed by a six-yard touchdown scamper from quarterback Wayne Madkin.

Best Demon Deacon Moment: Given little chance for victory in the 2002 Seattle Bowl, the Demon Deacons routed favored Oregon 38-17 behind a balanced offensive attack that featured 256 yards on the ground and 241 yards through the air. Game MVP James MacPherson ran for a score and passed for two touchdowns (and 241 yards) on just 9-of-16 passing.

Music City Bowl History
2010 North Carolina 30, Tennessee 27 2OT
2009 Clemson 31, Kentucky 13
2008 Vanderbilt 16, Boston College 14
2007 Kentucky 35, Florida State 28
2006 Kentucky 28, Clemson 20
2005 Virginia 34, Minnesota 31
2004 Minnesota 20, Alabama 16
2003 Auburn 28, Wisconsin 14
2002 Minnesota 29, Arkansas 14
2001 Boston College 20, Georgia 16
2000 West Virginia 49, Ole Miss 38
1999 Syracuse 20, Kentucky 13
1998 Virginia Tech 38, Alabama 7

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