Mississippi State survives Louisiana Tech

Published 12:05 am Sunday, September 25, 2011

STARKVILLE (AP) — Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf’s last seven passes in regulation missed their mark. He hadn’t completed a pass since the third quarter.

But when he finally did — a 17-yarder to LaDarius Perkins — it was a game-winner.

Relf hit Perkins on MSU’s second play of overtime, sealing a 26-20 victory over Louisiana Tech on Saturday night.

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“I don’t think Chris played his best game today at all,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said, “but give him credit. He stood in there under extreme pressure and threw the game-winning touchdown pass. Fifteen years from now, that’s one that people are going to remember.”

La. Tech had the ball first in overtime, but free safety Nickoe Whitley intercepted quarterback Nick Isham on the second play from scrimmage.

Relf did the rest.

Mississippi State (2-2) scored first and led at half, but could never put the Bulldogs away.

Late in the fourth, with the game tied 20-20, La. Tech went on a nine-play, 60-yard drive and had the ball in field goal range with less than four minutes to play. But an interception by Jonathan Banks ended the drive.

In overtime, MSU won the toss and elected to go to defense first. A wise choice, it turned out.

La. Tech (1-3) outpaced Mississippi State 252-164 on the ground and led in time of possession. Both are usually a source of strength for Mullen an MSU, but injuries on the offensive line have left the Bulldogs, a team ranked in the preseason Top 25 and expected to challenge for the SEC West title, struggling to move the ball.

“I give our guys credit,” Mullen said. “They kept playing, kept fighting for four quarters and beyond, and when we needed to make a play, we made a play.”

Vick Ballard paced MSU with 71 yards on 17 rushes and a touchdown.

Perkins finished the game with 47 yards rushing and two catches for 22 yards, including the game winner.

Relf was 14-of-29 for 165 yards guiding the struggling MSU offense.

Lennon Creer led the La. Tech attack with 83 yards on 24 rushes with one touchdown.

Isham, a 17 year-old freshman, finished 29-of-40 for 228 yards, but he was sacked three times and picked off twice.

“He played real well, just made a few mistakes down the stretch,” La. Tech coach Sonny Dykes said. “Which most young players do. What he did do, he played well enough for us to win it at the end of the game.”

Neither team ever gained a sizeable lead in regulation.

Mississippi State struck first on Chad Bumphis’s 82-yard punt return for a touchdown, but Tech responded with 10 unanswered points to take the lead.

But midway through the second quarter, Vick Ballard broke free on a fourth-and-one and scampered for an 11-yard touchdown run, putting MSU back on top.

Derek DePasquale hit a 36-yard field goal in the closing minutes of the half to put MSU up 17-10 at the break.