By Brad Locke | NEMS Daily Journal
If Mississippi State falls behind early to Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl, there should be no reason for panic.
The Demon Deacons have had trouble this season holding leads, and double-digit leads at that. Four times they’ve seen an advantage of 10 or more points evaporate, and three of those instances resulted in a loss – to Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Clemson.
Ironically, the largest blown lead – 17 points – came in a 24-23 win over Duke on Oct. 22. Wake Forest also had early leads of 7-0 and 10-3 against Notre Dame before losing 24-17.
There were other double-digit leads nearly blown by Wake, which is 4-3 this year in games decided by eight points or fewer.
The biggest defensive meltdown, however, came against North Carolina. It was a tight game well into the third quarter when the Tar Heels exploded for four touchdowns in just under 13 minutes, turning a 24-17 lead into a 49-17 lead. The final was 49-24.
UNC’s outburst was aided by a pair of interceptions, and Wake had five turnovers the entire game. Quarterback Tanner Price was picked off three times.
Good ball protection
It was an uncharacteristic game for the Demon Deacons, who have a plus-five turnover margin this season. Outside of that debacle, they’ve committed only seven turnovers, and Price has thrown only three picks in the other 11 games.
North Carolina also had scoring drives of 80 and 96 yards against a Wake Forest defense that ranks in the bottom third nationally. The Demon Deacons are 75th in total defense (399.1 yards per game) and 70th in scoring defense (27.8 points per game).
They’re also tied for 70th against the run (162.9 ypg), which should bode well for MSU. The Bulldogs average 168.8 yards per game on the ground (45th nationally), with Vick Ballard going for 1,009 yards at 5.6 yards per carry.
The North Carolina setback began a three-game losing streak for Wake Forest, which has lost four of its last five. It closed out the regular season with a 41-7 loss at home to Vanderbilt.
The Music City Bowl is set for Dec. 30 at Nashville’s LP Field.