By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
– MSU did exactly what it wanted offensively, when it wanted to. The Bulldogs piled up 409 rushing yards, their highest ground total in 18 years, and completely controlled the clock: Time of possession: MSU 39:02, Houston 20:58.
Houston got its yards through the air, 356 in all, but it went two-plus quarters without a touchdown after taking an early 7-0 lead.
MSU forced three turnovers, including a 27-yard interception return for TD by Corey Broomfield, and it held Bryce Beall, a good running back, to 17 yards on eight carries.
– MSU had some trouble covering kickoff returns, as Houston averaged 20.4 yards on seven returns. But most of those yards came in the first quarter.
Houston blocked two Sean Brauchle field goal attempts in the second half, both by Wesley Scourten. Fortunately for MSU, the game was well in hand by then.
Keys to victory review
– Evaluating the keys to victory in Saturday’s GameDay section:
1. Wrap up quickly. Houston tries to turn short passes into long runs, and MSU didn’t give up a play longer than 24 yards until late in the game. The Cougars were clearly missing James Cleveland, a physical receiver who was suspended for a violation of team rules.
2. Cut out the yellow. Coach Dan Mullen wasn’t pleased by the sight of eight penalties for 60 yards. After being flagged just 14 times through its first four games, MSU has been penalized 17 times over the last two contests.
3. Win up front. MSU controlled the ball and controlled the line of scrimmage, and that wore down the Houston defense. Five Bulldogs had at least 40 yards rushing, led by Vick Ballard’s 134 yards and quarterback Chris Relf’s 96 yards.
– Tailback Vick Ballard: The junior picked up his second consecutive 100-yard game, carrying the ball 14 times and scoring three touchdowns, giving him 12 trips into the end zone this season.
– The Bulldogs are now just two wins from gaining bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007. If they keep running the ball like they did Saturday, and if quarterback Chris Relf can keep protecting it – he’s gone three straight games without throwing an interception – that sixth win will arrive.