Mississippi State running back LaDarius Perkins (27) eludes a tackle by Northwestern safety Jared Carpenter (27) during the Gator Bowl Tuesday. (Photo by Stephen Morton, AP)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. â€“ The Gator Bowl may not have gone in Mississippi Stateâ€™s favor, but there was one bright spot in the form of the running game.
In a day where the passing game was not working, the Bulldogs looked towards Josh Robinson and LaDarius Perkins to establish an offensive surge on the ground.
â€śI was talking to Tyler (Russell), he was telling me I got to get going,â€ť Perkins said. â€śHe said that he was struggling a little bit. He was like (trying to) get the guys going and weâ€™d try to keep moving, (and) pick it up some.â€ť
MSU coach Dan Mullen agreed with his junior quarterback.
With the passing game slightly off, the run game was going to be necessary if the Bulldogs wanted to get anything going. The coach just wanted to make sure it was properly implemented.
â€śWe wanted to be able to run the ball,â€ť Mullen said. â€śThat was always going to be an emphasis, but we wanted to make sure we set it up and didnâ€™t go solely on the run to start it off. I thought at times we ran the ball very, very well.â€ť
Robinson rushed his way to a career-high and game-high 91, while Perkins picked up 84. The pair combined to rush for 175 of MSUâ€™s 186 yards.
Entering Tuesdayâ€™s contest, the Bulldogs were 8-0 when rushing for 100 yards or more and held a 12-game winning streak when rushing for triple digit yards. On Tuesday, both records fell, despite the impressive yardage from Perkins and Robinson.
Perkins is proud of the way he and his teammate played, but the junior still felt there was more he could have done.
â€śYeah, it was a couple of times I broke a couple of runs and I felt I was going to break a long one,â€ť Perkins said. â€śUnfortunately, that didnâ€™t happen, but our o-line did a great job (Tuesday) blocking.
â€śI donâ€™t know how many yards I had but I know me and Josh had over 100 together.â€ť
The 84 yards posted by Perkins moved the running back to over 1,000 yards this season, placing him in the elite company of former Bulldog Vick Ballard.
â€śItâ€™s good to have back-to-back 1,000-yard rushers,â€ť said Perkins. â€śVick was a 1,000-yard rusher last year. I tried to keep it going this year and make sure Iâ€™m capable next year, too. Going into next year, itâ€™s a positive upside of getting a 1,000 yards. My offensive line made sure I was going to get that (Tuesday) and we did, but we just didnâ€™t result in a victory and thatâ€™s the main thing â€“ getting a victory.â€ť
Losing at the end of the day was not what Perkins and his teammates wanted, but there is one thing for MSU fans to cheer about and that is the fact that the Bulldog running game is heading in the right direction.
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â€śWeâ€™re going to put this loss behind us and move forward,â€ť Perkins said. â€śWeâ€™re looking forward to having a great season next year also.â€ť