Vick Ballard's touchdown runs of 60 and 72 yards were enough for a Mississippi State offense that committed four turnovers and managed little in the way of passing to compliment a stifling defense in a 23-17 win over Wake Forest in the 2011 American Mortgage Music City Bowl at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.
Ballard, who finished with 183 yards rushing on just 14 carries, was named the game's MVP, but a Bulldog defense that allowed only 287 total yards and held the Demon Deacons to 2 of 17 on third down kept State from giving away the game. State quarterback Chris Relf finished 12 of 19 for 129 yards and a touchdown, plus 64 yards rushing, but threw two interceptions into the end zone. The senior leaves as the winningest quarterback in school history (.681), passing Wayne Madkin (.676). Even Ballard wasn't immune to turnovers, fumbling to set up a Wake Forest touchdown drive in the first quarter before answering with a touchdown on State's next possession.
Sophomore quarterback Tanner Price finished 24 of 46 for 214 yards for the Demon Deacons, and senior Brandon Pendergrass finished with 73 yards on 24 carries for one touchdown. Wake Forest held the ball longer (35:50) and committed fewer penalties (four for 35 yards compared to MSU's five for 43), but couldn't maintain drives on third down.
After a 7-7 first quarter, Mississippi State built a lead on the momentum of a blocked field goal by senior defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, who swatted a 33-yard attempt by Jimmy Newman in the second quarter. Two plays later, Relf found Arceto Clark for a touchdown, and after State missed the PAT, they'd tack a field goal of their own to build a 16-7 lead and never trailed again.
"Anytime you have adversity, the blocked field goal was really rough because as the game wound down towards the end of the game, that field goal became huge. We make that one, we are in much better shape," Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe said.
With the win, the Bulldogs have now won five straight bowl games, tying Rutgers for the longest streak in the nation.