CFN Analysis - MSU Holds On In Music City
Posted Dec 30, 2011

CFN Instant Analysis on the Mississippi State win over Wake Forest in the Music City

CFN Analysis   

Miss St 23, Wake Forest 17

By Pete Fiutak

- There are a LOT of people out there grouchy about the shanked Derek DePasquale extra point and the decision to not go for the field goal at the end of the first half.

- If you had told Wake Forest before the game that it would be +4 in turnover margin, it would've taken it in a heartbeat.

- Good for Chris Relf. This was supposed to be a big year for him coming off a great end to 2010, but it didn't work out and the MSU season was a disappointment. He might have thrown two picks – including the inexcusable one at the end of the first half, but he also connected on 12-of-19 throws with a score and ran for 64 yards.

- The MSU defense had a lot to do with it, but it never seemed like Wake Forest ever had control. The Demon Deacon offense held on to the ball for almost 36 minutes, and Tanner Price had a nice game on his short-to-midrange throws, but it always seemed like MSU was able to answer when it had to, especially on third downs.

- Actually, Vick Ballard always ended up answering when he had to.

- Ballard closed out a strong career with his best game of the year. He might have given up a fumble, but he all but put his two home runs killed Wake Forest's field position and momentum.

- 2-for-17. That's what Wake Forest was on third downs. The offense moved the ball, but not when it really needed a play to keep drives rolling.

- You've got to love the SEC. On the Mississippi State web site right now is the countdown clock to the 2012 opener against Jackson State.

- Fine, I'll let it out of the bag 245 days early. We're going to pick the Bulldogs.

By Richard Cirminiello 

If you're Jim Grobe, aren't you prodding your agent to put out feelers for new opportunities? The coach loves Winston-Salem, where he consistently does a fantastic job, but there's such a limit to how much top-shelf talent he can attract to Wake Forest.

The Mississippi State defense was underrated all year. Wake Forest—and a big chunk of the country—got a glimpse of that this evening. There's a mess of next-level defenders on that side of the ball, which Dan Mullen hopes doesn't actually reach the next level until 2013.

Mississippi State RB Vick Ballard turned a bunch of scouts' heads in Nashville. It's not so much that he ripped off 180 yards in an MVP performance as it was the unexpected speed he employed to gobble up all of that real estate.

Cowbells are vuvuzelas with a drawl. Both are incredibly annoying at sporting events.

The Demon Deacons aren't built to win games in which they throw the ball more than 40 times. If they fail to grind it out between the tackles consistently, which happened against that tough Bulldogs front, the odds of a victory plummet dramatically.

Don't make the mistake of judging Mullen—or his offense—based solely on what he does in Starkville (see Gene Chizik in Ames). The guy can coach, and flat-out elevate the talent around him. Someone at a larger program, with better resources, is going to take a chance on him in the next year or two, and reap the benefits for about a decade.

By Matt Zemek

The Mississippi State Bulldogs might have won the 2011 Music City Bowl, but it's hard to feel particularly optimistic about MSU's future after watching this four-turnover slopfest against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in Nashville.

Let's put this game in perspective: Wake Forest has very little speed on the field. Quarterback Tanner Price played poorly for most of the evening, missing several makeable passes that would have transformed the game's ebb and flow. The Deacons were clearly overwhelmed up front – Mississippi State hammered Wake Forest for almost 200 rushing yards despite the absence of a particularly prolific passing game. On defense, MSU repeatedly drew holding penalties on the Demon Deacons' frail offensive line, putting Wake in down-and-distance situations that were hard to overcome. There's no question that Mississippi State possessed a lot more talent than Wake Forest.

Ask yourself this simple question, then: How in the blazes did Wake still have a chance to win in the final two minutes?

Let's lay it on the line here: If Jim Grobe coached Mississippi State and Dan Mullen coached Wake Forest, this would have been a Bulldog blowout. Instead, Mullen was on the MSU sideline, making a gul-darned fool of himself by protesting the calls that the Mid-American Conference crew got right. While he was spending so much time critiquing the officials, Mullen – studying his play sheet so exhaustively – couldn't come up with a remotely nuanced play call on 4th and 2 from the Wake 39 late in the third quarter. Mullen called a read-based running play on the preceding 3rd and 2 (it was stopped for no yards) in which quarterback Chris Relf awkwardly bumped into his running back as he tried to make the right decision. How humiliating it must have been for Mullen to call the same play and watch the same thing happen on fourth down? Mullen looks more and more out of his league with each passing day. Winning a bowl game at Mississippi State is nothing to sneeze at, but if barely beating this Wake Forest team – and its paucity of weapons – is the best the Bulldogs can do, they're not going to crack the top four in the SEC West anytime soon. Jim Grobe might have lost this game, but the fact that he piloted Wake to a bowl game makes him look so much better than the coach who beat him on Friday night.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

- Good for Chris Relf. The Mississippi State quarterback lost his job late in the season, filled in against Wake Forest for the injured Tyler Russell, and finished off his career with a dazzling performance both through the air and on the ground. Relf plays hard and with a lot of heart, and we saw that tonight.

- Vick Ballard, in case you didn't know, is a stud. No further analysis needed.

- The Bulldogs inability to operate a four-minute offense allowed Wake to have a decent opportunity for the go-ahead touchdown, but Tanner Price was very erratic on the last drive for the Demon Deacons.

- Mississippi State's defense has been underrated all season.  Wake Forest forced four turnovers and only managed 17 total points. The Bulldogs don't miss Manny Diaz much.

By Terry Johnson
Please follow me on Twitter @TPJCollFootball

- Even the staunchest opponent of 6-6 teams playing in bowl games would have to concede that this was a spirited contest between two teams that really wanted to play in a bowl game.

- Nothing can turn the tide in a game more than a blocked kick. Even though Wake Forest was struggling on offense, they had a chance to take a lead in the second quarter when Jimmy Newman lined up for a 33-yard FG. Mississippi State blocked the kick, and took over on their own 42. Two plays later, the Bulldogs scored to take a 13-7 lead. The Deacons were never in the game after that.

- The Bulldog defense deserves all of the credit for this win. Even with MSU turning the ball over four times, they held Tanner Price and company in check for most of the night.

- Wake Forest had its chances to win this game, but could not get the job done on third down. The MSU defense held the Deacons to only 2 of 17 on third down conversions, with both of the conversions coming in the fourth quarter.

- Shame on ESPN for trying to play the "ACC plays physical defense just like the SEC" angle. Vic Ballard ran all over the Wake Forest defense, breaking two TD runs of 60 yards or longer. Who was the only team to run for more yards against the Demon Deacons this year? Vanderbilt.

- On the other hand, Michael Campanaro showed that he will find the open spot against any defense. Campanaro had his best game of the season, catching 10 passes for 128 yards. Not a bad performance against the nation's 23rd ranked pass defense.