By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Vick Ballard isn’t the most excitable sort, unless one of his teammates does something big.
So Ballard was pumped when LaDarius Perkins picked up the slack in the running game – and, of course, when Perkins caught the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime, giving State a 26-20 win over Louisiana Tech.
With Ballard, a senior, struggling to get loose in the run game, Perkins relieved some of the pressure. The sophomore finished with 47 yards on 12 carries and added two catches for 23 yards and the touchdown.
“That’s what we need, to keep fresh legs on the field,” said Ballard, who had 68 yards and a score on 17 carries. “Perk made me so happy tonight, man. I’m so happy for him, because I wasn’t playing my best game, and he came in and filled in while I was void.”
Perkins’ biggest play was in the passing game. On the second play of overtime, he ran a play called “cheetah” and got open down the left sideline. Quarterback Chris Relf dropped it in perfectly, and the Bulldogs celebrated in the south end zone.
Perkins said he was looking across the field, thinking perhaps Relf would throw the ball elsewhere, but when he looked up, “the ball was in the light, and it was coming towards me, so I knew I had to make the catch.”
Perkins had 33 of his rushing yards in the second half. He had a 13-yard run in the third quarter that really caught Ballard’s eye.
“I saw one play, he spinned off one guy and broke a tackle, like one guy went over his head or something like that. That had me jacked up on the sidelines,” Ballard said.
For the night, MSU gained 176 yards on the ground, averaging 4.0 yards per carry. Tech did a good job stuffing the inside run, but the Bulldogs eventually found some space outside the tackles, gaining 99 rushing yards after halftime.
“I wouldn’t say they were getting by us, but they came off the ball,” right guard Quentin Saulsberry said of Louisiana Tech’s defensive line. “I expected that. Some people think because those guys are in the WAC, or they’re not an SEC school, those guys don’t come off the ball. They’re on scholarship, too.”
Saulsberry is normally the center, but he had to move over last week against LSU when starting right guard Tobias Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury. Redshirt freshman Dillon Day started at center, and redshirt freshman Blaine Clausell against started at left tackle for an injured James Carmon.
Saulsberry has no concerns with the line play and thought there was good chemistry.
“Coach always told us, pick up the young guys. To me those guys are not young any more. They’re starting just like me. You’re not a freshman, you’re not a sophomore, you’re a starter.”