Mississippi State Tops Wake Forest in the 14th Annual Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Friday, December 30, 2011

It was a perfect evening for football in the Music City with temperatures in the upper-fifties at kickoff as the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Wake Forest Demon Deacons took center stage in front of a crowd of 55,208 at the 2011 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. This was the first meeting between the two teams and each team’s first appearance in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.
Wake Forest won the toss and elected to defer, marking the first time this season that the Demon Deacons did not have the ball on the first possession. Both teams’ offense started slow, with neither team gaining a first down late into the first quarter. The pace quickly changed, though, when Wake Forest recovered a fumble on the 37-yard-line and scored with a 14-yard run into the end zone by Brandon Pendergrass. This would be the tenth time Wake Forest scored first this season. Mississippi State did not waste much time responding. The Bulldogs scored in three plays on a 60-yard rush by Vick Ballard and tie the game 7-7. The score remains tied at seven at the end of the first quarter.
Mississippi State scored first in the second quarter in two plays to go up 13-7, and missed the kick attempt. Wake Forest was unable to convert on their first drive of the second quarter and Mississippi State scored again on their second series with a 33-yard field goal from DePasquale. The Bulldogs led 16-7 and would hold onto that lead going into the half.
Wake Forest began with the ball in the second half and took advantage of the opening possession with a touchdown, to make it a 16-14 game in the third quarter. Mississippi State put together what looked to be a scoring drive, however, Chris Relf threw an interception at the 1-yard-line marking the Bulldogs’ fourth turnover of the game. Wake Forest was unable to capitalize on the momentum, going three-and-out. The Bulldogs again had a long, productive drive but lost the ball on downs after an unsuccessful fourth down conversion attempt. The score remained 16-14 at the end of the third quarter.
The Demon Deacons once again opened the quarter with possession of the ball, however the Bulldogs were first to reach the end zone on 72-yard touchdown run by Vick Ballard to go up 23-14. Wake Forest drove down the field once more and scored a field goal to make it a 23-17 game with 3:29 remaining in the game. The Demon Deacons had a strong defensive stand and regained possession with 2:15 left in the game, but they were unable to convert and lost the ball on downs. The Bulldogs lined up in the victory formation and chants of S-E-C echoed from State fans as the clock counted down the final seconds of the game.
Despite four turnovers by the Bulldogs and none by the Demon Deacons, Mississippi State held on to win 23-17. Ballard had a career night for the Bulldogs with 180 rushing yards, only seven yards shy of the Bowl’s rushing yards record set by Marion Barber III of Minnesota in 2004. Wake Forest finished the season tied for the fewest fumbles lost by and FBS team with four.
Congratulations to the Mississippi State Bulldogs on ringing in their inaugural Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl game with a victory. This is the Bulldogs’ fifth consecutive Bowl victory and first back-to-back bowl game wins since 1999-2000.