Mississippi State vs. Wake Forest: 5 Things We Learned from the Music City Bowl
Nashville, Tenn.—The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl certainly did not disappoint the 40,000 cowbell-waving Mississippi State Bulldogs fans at LP Field on Friday night.
The first 10 minutes of the game was fraught with offensive miscues and defensive stinginess. The rest of the game was made up of big plays, long drives and a few more offensive mistakes in a 23-17 victory over Wake Forest.
We still learned plenty about both Wake Forest and Mississippi State in the first game of the bowl season that included a team from the Southeastern Conference. Let's take a look...
Chris Relf Finishes Career as the Winningest QB in Mississippi State History
Butch Dill/Getty Images
Chris Relf's career at Mississippi State began with great potential, yet it was ultimately marked by inconsistent numbers. That is true in most every aspect of Relf's legacy, except for the most important numbers in all of football, regardless of level—wins and losses.
With the Bulldogs win over Wake Forest in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Relf finished his career with a 15-7 mark as a starter at Mississippi State.
Relf might have had his ups and downs in Starkville, but leaving any major college football program as the winningest quarterback in school history is a worthwhile accomplishment.
Dan Mullen Shouldn't Play the Lottery Anytime Soon
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
More often than not in Friday's Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Dan Mullen's dice-rolling ways ended up going the opposite of his intended result.
Mullen's decision to go for the touchdown instead of a field goal attempt with :06 seconds remaining in the second quarter ended up with an end zone interception from the Wake Forest 9-yard line and cost the Bulldogs a double-digit lead at halftime.
Later, with the Bulldogs nursing a two-point lead in the final moments of the third quarter, Mullen decided to go for it on fourth and two from the Wake Forest 39 yard line. The result was a stuffed quarterback sneak.
Wake Forest Has Trouble Capitalizing on Opponent Mistakes
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Mississippi State had four turnovers in Friday night's bowl game. As a matter of fact, the Bulldogs turned the ball over on consecutive possessions in the first quarter and pulled double-duty again on their last play of the first half and their first drive of the second half.
The bad part is Wake Forest took advantage of just one of those turnovers. Following the second of Mississippi State's consecutive fumbles in the first half, the Demon Deacons scored the game's first touchdown with a 38 yard drive.
But that was all Wake Forest could come up with off of the many Mississippi State turnovers.
Stats Don't Lie
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
In the last three games of the regular season, Wake Forest gave up an average of 235 yards on the ground. Going into the bowl game, you had to figure Mississippi State would be able to run the ball with ease considering the Demon Deacons sudden inability to stop the run game.
If you figured Vick Ballard would have a career night, you were right on. The senior had touchdown runs of 60 and 72 yards on his way to 180 rushing yards, finishing just three yards shy of the Mississippi State bowl record for rushing yards (Walter Packer, 1974 Sun Bowl).
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
There has been some hype surrounding Wake Forest junior wide receiver Chris Givens this season. Givens has been touted as a dangerously fast receiver, but only this season became the Demon Deacons' top target.
Friday night, shortly before making his future NFL intentions known, Givens caught nine passes for a disappointing 54 yards. His longest reception went for 12 yards. Every time the ball went in Givens' direction there were a handful of Bulldogs players there to greet him.
On one play in the first half, Givens alligator-armed a pass from quarterback Tanner Price when he apparently heard the footsteps of a Mississippi State defensive back. Just a hunch, but Givens might want to fix that little problem before heading to the NFL.