MSU's ground game could be key in Kentucky
MSU quarterback Chris Relf (14) gives the ball to running back Vick Ballard (28) in a game earlier this season. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
By DANNY P. SMITH
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Two yards and a cloud of dust?
That's not the plan all of the time for coach Dan Mullen's spread offense at Mississippi State.
At times, the Bulldogs have broken a big play in the running game. Vick Ballard had runs of 46 and 66 yards for touchdowns against Memphis and LaDarius Perkins broke a 40-yarder for a score against Auburn.
MSU hasn't come close to getting a run of that length since and averages 4.3 yards per carry. That number is right on what the coaches expect out of the Bulldogs.
"Every time we run the ball, we look for 4 yards," MSU offensive line coach and running game coordinator John Hevesy said. "To run the ball, it's never been to get 65 yards. If those runs happen, they happen. It takes execution from everybody.
"Every scripted run play is just for 4 yards. I want the 2nd (down) and 6 and want 4 yards so we can have 3rd and 2."
Hevesy said it doesn't matter if the Bulldogs run off-tackle, certain gap schemes, or zone schemes. It takes all 11 players on offense doing their job in the right formation to get gains of over 20 yards.
Getting production out of the running game in some form will be something MSU will try to do as it gets back into Southeastern Conference play at Kentucky Saturday (6 p.m., FOX Sports Net).
The Bulldogs look to break through in the conference as they have lost all four SEC games so far this season.
With an overall mark of 3-4, MSU's game against the Wildcats will also be important in terms of achieving a six-win season and getting in a position to play in a postseason bowl game.
"This is a big game and has proven in the past to be a turning point of the season," Mullen said at his weekly press conference Monday. "If we can get a win, it will jump start the second half of the season and get us in a position to play in a great bowl game.
"We're 3-4 right now so we need a win to get back to .500. This is a huge game for us."
The running game played a part in last year's 24-17 win by the Bulldogs against Kentucky.
MSU had 214 yards on the ground that day with Ballard scoring on a 54-yard run and quarterback Chris Relf adding a 4-yard rushing touchdown.
Mullen did not say Monday whether Tyler Russell would get his second-straight start behind center for the Bulldogs or that Relf might get the nod.
Either way, Mullen said it will be important for each part of MSU's operation to be sharp to be in position for a victory.
"We're looking for ways to improve our consistency and execution at every position," Mullen said. "We need to do a better job of coaching and doing the right things all of the time from what we do from the team periods to the games. When that transition is complete, then we'll have a good football team."
After dealing with the Wildcats, the Bulldogs return to Davis Wade Stadium for homecoming and it was announced by the SEC on Monday that game against UT-Martin will be a 6:30 p.m. kickoff on CSS television.