By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Mississippi State racked up the yards (570) and had a nice run/pass balance. Vick Ballard scored two touchdowns to break a four-game scoring drought, and he finished with 102 yards on the ground.
State hit some big plays, including a 78-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Russell to Chad Bumphis, and a 65-yard punt return for TD by Johnthan Banks.
MSU’s run defense was uncharacteristically sieve-like, as UT Martin rushed for 267 yards, including 145 in the first half. The Bulldogs couldn’t shed blocks and missed too many tackles, giving up some big runs, including a 34-yarder to Jason McNair and 29-yarder to Tevin Barksdale.
Also, senior kicker Derek DePasquale missed a 38-yard field goal, his fourth miss in five attempts after an 8-of-9 start to the season.
Keys to victory
Evaluating the keys to victory in Saturday’s GameDay section:
1. Dominate up front. MSU’s offensive line did an effective job, protecting the quarterbacks (no sacks) and paving the way for a 288-yard rushing effort. But again, the defense had issues..
2. Contain Estelle. C.J. Estelle entered the game as the leading punt returner in Division I-AA, but he got no opportunities Saturday. MSU punted only twice, and neither was returned. State also did well on kickoff coverage, an effort aided by a season-high three touchbacks.
3. Keep making those big plays. MSU hit some big ones, including the aforementioned TDs by Bumphis and Banks. Also, Ballard broke off a 54-yard touchdown run, and receiver Arceto Clark had a 36-yard catch to go with TD grabs of 27 and 19 yards.
Vick Ballard, the senior tailback, makes life easier for everyone when he’s running like he did Saturday. He had some wide running lanes to work with but punished defenders when he had to, and it was his fourth 100-yard game of the season.
MSU has plenty of issues to work on while preparing for No. 4 Alabama’s visit this weekend. It’s a home game and a chance to reach bowl eligibility, and coach Dan Mullen said Sunday that MSU needs “everybody in the state of Mississippi out there helping us to find a way to get a win.”