NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 30: Jameon Lewis #16 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs joins teammates in running onto the field after a win over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at LP Field on December 30, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. Mississippi State won 23-17. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
The stats that mattered in Mississippi State's 23-17 win over Wake Forest in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, from miscues to big plays to poor Tanner Price.
18.5: Wake Forest's turnover points margin (as defined here). Congratulations, then, to Mississippi State for proving you can still win while ceding almost three touchdowns' worth of turnovers. They nearly doubled up the Demon Deacons in terms of per-play average (6.5 to 3.3), but their miscues not only kept Wake in the game, but gave the Deacs a chance to win at the end. Two early fumbles handed the ball to Wake inside the MSU 40, and two later interceptions ended scoring opportunities.
17: Mississippi State's success rate when rushing on first down. Some measures I look at are more descriptive than evaluative. In this case, success rate gives us a perfect glimpse into just how reliant Mississippi State was on big plays. The Bulldogs rushed 18 times on first downs and only gained more than five yards three times. Those three rushes, however, went for 18, 27 and 72 yards. The running game both landed MSU in consistent passing downs and bailed them out. Wake Forest, meanwhile, was much more efficient running on first downs (33 percent) but never actually got anywhere (2.5 yards per carry overall).
12: Mississippi State tackles for loss. The defensive line simply dominated the Deacs. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox had two tackles for loss to lead the way (he also blocked a 33-yard field goal in the second quarter), but in the end, 10 different Bulldogs took part in at least one play behind the line of scrimmage. Wake running back Brandon Pendergrass averaged just 3.0 yards over 24 carries, and poor quarterback Tanner Price was sacked six times. The Deacs were still able to engineer a few scoring opportunities, but those were counteracted by five three-and-outs and two late turnovers on downs.
-1.1: Average gain on Tanner Price's third- or fourth-and-long pass attempts. Once made one-dimensional, Wake never had a chance. On third- or fourth-and-six or more, Price completed just one of 10 passes for five yards and was sacked three times for a loss of 19. Price had no time to throw, but really, he had no open receivers either. No. 1 weapon Chris Givens was swallowed whole by Johnthan Banks, Wade Bonner and MSU secondary; for the game, he caught just nine of 19 passes for 54 yards. Michael Campanaro had a nice game -- 15 targets, 10 catches, 128 yards -- but he was the only one. This was just about the most dominant six-point win you're ever going to see, though one more MSU mistake may have handed the game to Wake.