Mississippi State entered the 2011 season with high expectations following a 9-4 campaign a year ago that included a Gator Bowl win over Michigan that officially put the stamp on Rich Rodriguez‘s career in Ann Arbor.
But, boy, did the Bulldogs have a hard time repeating that success. Now, first of all, look at what they had to face: games at Auburn, at Georgia, at Arkansas and then LSU and Alabama on top of that. Add in some inconsistent quarterback issues with Chris Relf and Tyler Russell and a questionable defense, and Dan Mullen‘s looking at an uphill battle.
And an uphill battle it was, but running back Vick Ballard has been one of the bright spots for MSU this year. Ballard rushed for 1,009 yards heading into tonight and played in every single game in some capacity. The somewhat unbelievable part is that he only touched the ball 15 times a game on average this season; Ballard matched that in a 23-17 win tonight over Wake Forest (6-7) in the Music City Bowl with 16 touches for 189 total yards.
The senior running back was an absolute beast when he did get his hands on the rock, though, averaging 12 yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns. His 180 rushing yards tonight were a career best at Mississippi State and three shy of Walter Packer’s postseason record of 183 yards in the 1974 Sun Bowl.
Not bad for a guy whose only other offer coming out of the JUCO ranks was Troy.
There have been some fine running back performances this postseason. You can count Ballard’s Music City Bowl as part of that trend.