By BRAD LOCKE / NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State wasn’t expecting Brandon Bridge to do what he did, but then, who would have suspected a freshman quarterback from Canada to light up an SEC defense?
Bridge, Alcorn State’s first-year QB, put State on its heels early in the second quarter when he broke off a 78-yard touchdown run. That cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 14-7.
“It was like they threw a punch that we were not ready for, and it took us a while,” MSU defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “We were sort of staggering for the next 10-15 minutes of the game.”
A few minutes later, Bridge hit Terrance Lewis for a 58-yard gain and then found Ryan Singleton in the back of the end zone for a 20-yard score to make it 21-13.
For the game, Bridge was 13 of 24 passing for 193 yards and a touchdown, and he added 77 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Linebacker K.J. Wright, who made a team-high eight tackles, gave Bridge credit but laid some blame on his own shoulders.
“We did a bad job,” he said, “and it’s something we’ve got to improve on.”
Ballard keeps chugging
• Long distance, short distance – Vick Ballard just knows how to put it in the end zone.
The junior carried the ball eight times and scored three touchdowns, racking up a career-high 119 yards. Ballard scored on runs of 17, 1 and 75 yards.
The last one gave MSU a 42-16 lead.
“I was happy to see how fast he was,” coach Dan Mullen said. “I thought he was getting caught, and then he started getting caught again, and I saw them closing on him, I thought he’s getting caught again, and somehow he managed to be fast enough to get in the end zone.”
Ballard didn’t even know how long the run was.
“Seventy-five? When I got to the secondary, I saw the daylight,” he said.
LaDarius Perkins actually had more carries – 10 for 48 yards and a score – but it’s become increasingly clear that Ballard has gained separation from the rest of the backs, but Mullen said he’ll stick with the regular rotation for now.
“They haven’t done anything to take themselves out of the rotation,” Mullen said of Perkins and Robert Elliott, who had three carries for 10 yards. “Vick’s doing well to keep himself in the front.”
• Alcorn State had some momentum after closing within 21-13, but MSU responded with a three-play, 59-yard touchdown drive capped by Ballard’s 1-yard run at the 4:19 mark of the second quarter.
Key number – 2
• MSU has its first two-game winning streak since the 2007 season.
• “That’s just inexcusable, especially for the leaders. We’ve got to find a way to get the team up, get our energy level good.” – MSU linebacker K.J. Wright, on the defense’s first-half struggles
• MSU is on the road for only the second time this season, trekking to Houston of Conference USA. The Cougars (3-2) beat State in Starkville last year, 31-24. They were idle Saturday.
• Junior college transfer James Carmon made his first career start at defensive tackle in place of the injured Fletcher Cox. … Freshman Corvell Harrison-Gay saw his first action of the season at defensive end. … Offensive guard Tobias Smith had a 10-yard run after he scooped up a Relf fumble in the third quarter. … MSU had 15 tackles-for-loss, 2.5 of them by linebacker Chris White, who also had 2.5 sacks. … Perkins, a redshirt freshman tailback, scored his first career touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run.