OXFORD – The payoff for LaDarius Perkins came at the best of times.
For Mississippi State’s redshirt freshman tailback, patience has been a theme all season. He entered the fall as part of a three-man rotation, but Vick Ballard quickly emerged as the go-to guy.
Entering Saturday’s game with Ole Miss, Perkins had 428 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and only 28 receiving yards with a score.
With Ole Miss focused on hemming in Ballard, Perkins went wild: 13 rushes for 98 yards, three catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
“Coach (Dan) Mullen is always telling us, ‘Big-time players step up in big-time games,’ so I just tried to step up,” Perkins said. “I’m a young guy, I just tried to help my team win this big rivalry game.”
He helped in a big way.
With MSU trailing 9-7 in the second quarter, Perkins jumped up and plucked a Chris Relf pass over a defender and scored on a 33-yard touchdown reception.
He also showed his speed on several occasions, most notably a 36-yard TD catch. Relf couldn’t find an open receiver and dumped it off to Perkins, who slipped a tackle and streaked downfield past everyone to give State a 21-9 lead just before halftime.
He also had a 71-yard reception in the third quarter -he somehow got run down from behind – to set up Ballard’s 8-yard touchdown run for a 31-9 lead.
“When we needed a shot, he took it,” center J.C. Brignone said. “He went, and he got the ball, and he took it and did what he needed to do with it.”
As Perkins said, that’s what Mullen asks of his playmakers, of which he has few. Top receiver Chad Bumphis left in the first half with a collarbone injury, and this is a team that’s already been without senior receiver Leon Berry (dislocated ankle) and athletic tight end Marcus Green (knee) for several weeks.
Ballard never got on track, finishing with 43 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
Perkins also got it done on returns, and he finished with 319 all-purpose yards, second-most in school history behind Nick Turner’s 344.
“We’re not loaded with playmakers; we have some guys that make plays, but not loaded with playmakers right now,” Mullen said. “And he’s one of our playmakers. So when Chad went down and one of our guys we feel is a playmaker, we needed him to step up and he had a huge game and had some explosive plays that were needed.”
Perkins has a lot of football ahead of him, and so he’ll keep the same attitude that’s gotten him this far and gave him a chance to come through in the clutch.
“All you’ve got to do is be patient, and things will happen,” Perkins said. “I’m not mad about anything, because you’ve got to be patient.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571
BRAD LOCKE / NEMS Daily Journal