Nashville, TN ( 12/30)…….. Mississippi State has won their first ever Music City Bowl by defeating Wake Forest, 23-17 at LP Field in Nashville.
After the game, winning coach Dan Mullen said, “Wake Forest kept battling and battling and battling until the very end. That’s what you expect in a bowl game. No one’s going to give you anything.”
Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price failed to connect on critical 3rd down passes forcing them to give the ball to an explosive Bulldog team. The game featured the passing attack of Wake Forest versus the running ground game of Mississippi State.
Wake Forest won the toss but deferred to the second half. Mississippi State benefited from a 50 yard kickoff return by Jameon Lewis. The Bulldogs failed to pick up the first down and faced a 3rd and 18 to go after a bobbled hand off lead to a quarterback sack.
Once again the Bulldogs failed to move the ball, first with a false start penalty and then an 11 yard loss when Chris Relf was sacked . Another false start penalty moved the ball back to the 27 yard line.
Wake Forest would get the ball on their own 36 yard line. But two incomplete Price passes and a one yard loss on a run, forced another Demon Deacons punt.
Wake Forest would get a break when LaDarius Perkins fumbled the ball , turning it back over to the Demon Deacons on the Mississippi 34 yard line. Wake failed to pick up a first and with a 4th and 12, decided to punt the ball away. Punter Alex Wulfex sent his 36 yard punt into the endzone for a touchback.
The Bulldogs would once again fumble the ball away and but this time it was Vick Ballard who coughed the ball up.
Wake Forest used 6 plays in 2:11 to travel 38 yards into the endzone to take a 7-0 lead.
Mississippi State would start on their own 33 yard line after the kickoff. The Bulldogs would tie the score 7-7 thanks to a 60 yard Ballard run off right tackle. Wake Forest then took the ball and moved down to the 16 yard line but had a field goal attempt blocked.
The Bulldogs needed just 2 plays to move 58 yards as Arceto Clark caught a 31 yard pass in the endzone to put Mississippi up 13-7 as the point after was missed.
Mississippi State put a 12 play, 55 yard drive together in 4:48 and scored on a 33 yard field goal making the score 16-7.
With 1:39 left to play in the half, the Bulldogs moved the ball down to the 25 yard line thanks to a 37 yard pick up by Malcom Johnson. Relf however was picked off in the endzone by Duran Lowe to end the drive. Mississippi State would go to the locker room leading 16-7 despite having three turnovers in the half.
Wake Forest took the 2nd half kickoff 64 yards in 4:00 minutes on 7 plays to score on a one yard run, cutting the score to 16-14.
The Bulldogs looked like they would score but Relf’s pass was intercepted by Merrill Noel after it bounced out of the hands of two Mississippi State players. Wake Forest failed to moved the ball after 3 sets of downs and punted the ball back to the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs pick up one first down and punt the ball back to the Demon Deacons.
Both teams trade punts as either team can get a first down, as the Bulldogs are stopped short on 4th and 1 yard. Wake Forest benefits from a face mask penalty but still has to punt the ball back to the Bulldogs three plays later.
Ballard runs 72 yards off right tackle as the Bulldogs score in 3 plays in 1:19 minutes giving them a 23-14 advantage.
Wake Forest mounts a drive with Price looking for his favorite target, Michael Campanaro. They use a combination of run and pass plays but are against the game clock and down by 9 points. Campanaro can’t catch a pass thrown to him deep into the endzone with Price standing on the 41 yard line. On 4th down, Price fails to connect with Campanaro and the ball is turned over to the Bulldogs with 8:24 to play.
The Bulldogs fail to pick up a first down, and Wake Forest is given the ball back after a 45 yard punt. With 6:56 left in the game, they need two quick scores to get back in the game.
Wake Forest moved the ball down to the 21 yard line and with 4th down and 19, they made good on a Jimmy Newman field goal, cut the score to 23-17 in favor of Mississippi State.
With 3:23 left in the game, the Bulldogs failed to pick up a first down and punt the ball back to the Demon Deacons with 2:15 left to play. Three straight incomplete passes to Terence Davis caused Wake Forest to give up the ball on downs.
Mississippi State runs out the clock with 1:41 to play as Wake Forest has used all their timeouts.
Relf completed 12 of 19 passes for 129 yards and a TD and rushed for 64 yards on 15 carries in a winning effort.
Wake Forest sophomore quarterback Price completed 24 of 46 passes for 214 yards, but was sacked six times.