STARKVILLE - Vick Ballard was well-rested and sure played like it.
Mississippi State's junior tailback, who sat out last week's win over UAB with a minor ankle injury, made his presence felt early in Saturday's 24-17 win over Kentucky, ripping off a 54-yard touchdown run in the first quarter for a 10-0 MSU lead.
He finished with 103 yards - his third 100-yard game this season - on 14 carries.
"I felt like it was the first game," Ballard said.
Ballard's TD was his 13th of the season, 12 of which have come on the ground. It was his third scoring run of 50-plus yards.
As a team, MSU gained 214 yards rushing.
Hutchins' big kicks
• Punter Heath Hutchins might have some bad kicks now and then, but he hits the big ones when he has to.
With MSU holding onto a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter, he boomed a career-long 63-yarder to pin Kentucky at its own 8-yard line. MSU forced a three-and-out, and Hutchins' next punt, while not as far, was just as effective - a 40-yarder that Kentucky fair caught at the 10.
Hutchins' kicks took dangerous return man Randall Cobb out of play.
"I knew I was going to have to hit it good, but we didn't want him returning it anywhere," Hutchins said of the 63-yarder. "So we really focused on hitting it outside the numbers, and we came up big and did exactly what we wanted to do."
It was similar to the Florida game, when he pinned the Gators at their own 4 for their last drive, which came up short.
"He's been pretty clutch for us all season long," Mullen said. "When we needed that big play on special teams, he really boosted us."
• A few days after learning the SEC would be fining MSU for violating the league's artificial noisemaker policy, Bulldog fans were much more observant of the guidelines Saturday.
Mullen urged fans on the giant video board prior to the game to follow the guidelines, and athletics director Scott Stricklin feels they did that.
"It's got to be a part of our tradition, the pride in how we ring the bell," Stricklin said.
Even when Kentucky was trying to tie the game with a late drive, there were more yells than bells coming from the stands.
"It's all voices," Stricklin said. "It goes to show that the fans will do everything they can to help the program."
• With the game tied at 17-17, MSU drove 63 yards in seven plays, going ahead on QB Chris Relf's 5-yard touchdown run. It was the second consecutive week he directed a go-ahead scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
• Four - That's how many turnovers MSU came up with, while losing only one, and that was by the defense on an interception return. The offense has gone four straight games without a giveaway.
• "Sundays when you go into the office to grade this film and watch it, after a win, you always leave with a smile on your face.." - MSU coach Dan Mullen, on a six-game win streak heading into a bye week.
• MSU welcomes its first bye week of the season, which will give it extra time to prepare for a trip to No. 6 Alabama (7-1, 4-1), which was idle Saturday.
• MSU's win broke a string of four consecutive games in this series where the road team had won. ... Reserve defensive end Shane McCardell, who was briefly moved to receiver in the preseason, recorded his second sack of the season. ... Linebacker Chris White led MSU with 15 tackles.