Ballard Running For Season Touchdown Standard

With his three touchdowns last Saturday, Vick Ballard officially wrote his name into Bulldog record book. It's a line he has to share for the moment of course, as his 16 touchdowns are even with the standard set by Jackie Parker and matched by Anthony Dixon. Yet with two more games Ballard seems certain to make this mark his own.

Thing is, no coach or publicist had to tell Ballard that he'd tied the record. "I knew," he said today. "I wasn't keeping track, I already knew what the record was." And no, not for ego reasons, either. Ballard explained how back in September he was going through the Mississippi State media guide and looked at the record section. Naturally as a running back he checked those particular pages and one number has stuck with him.

"Actually I was laying in bed one night just thinking about the whole season, about how many touchdowns I had and what the record was. And it just hit me, I tied it!" If one wonders, yes, he knows who he has tied; Parker only by name of course, though the ‘1952' part still intrigues Ballard. "I guess that's something to be surprised about, how it's still up so long."

Dixon came close to topping Parker but had to settle for a tying total of 16, though all of Parker's were on carries while ‘Boobie' had 14 via rushing and two more as a receiver. Ballard has caught one touchdown ‘pass' himself though since it was an option play and forward pitch only statistical technicality makes it a throwing play. So when he breaks the total record with a rush he will also tie the program rushing-TD mark.

He'll also shove Dixon down a notch on that chart. Which raises the question, how would Ballard break the news to Boobie? "I'm not the type to boast and brag, know what I'm saying? I think he'd be happy for me. I hope so!"

Ballard certainly intends for this regular season to end happily, for his team at least. Not that he has much choice based on campus conversations today. "They say it's a must-win game, you can lose every game except the Ole Miss game." Easier said that done of course; the Rebel defense doesn't show up among the SEC or NCAA leaders but their prowess at stuffing runners is very well understood.

At the same time Ballard has proved himself against some very good league defenses already. In fact, while the numbers weren't as gaudy and both times he was kept out of an end zone, Ballard's most impressive efforts might have been at Florida (20 carries, 98 yards) and Alabama (19, 80). Both showed Ballard at his hard-nosed, tough-minded best.

Of course running by Arkansas defenders was a little easier as a 150-yard evening proved. It was Ballard's fourth 100-yard outing this year, with the addendum that a bum ankle kept him out of a UAB game where 100 yards would have been a snap. Or, a score of snaps, which until last Saturday was his high-work mark. By the time his evening was done Ballard had toted 33 times.

"I was really surprised because before that the most carries I had was 20 the Florida game." Surprised, but not overloaded. "I think in junior college it was 36. So I've done it before, plenty of times." And Ballard notes no ill effects from the long evening's labors. "I feel good. I mean, I was a little sore after the game. But I'm good."

Ballard has been very good indeed this first senior college season, and especially after the first month when he was splitting carries in the tailback rotation. In the last six games played he's produced 684 yards and 6.2 each carry. Though he arrived as a juco All-American, Ballard admits there was still an adjustment from spring through September.

"I think it was getting used to the speed of the game. Because at first I wasn't able to make the cuts and stuff like I was against a lower level school."

"It wasn't surprising to me," center J.C. Brignone said of Ballard. "I saw it in camp. The plays definitely fit the type of back he is, he's different than A.D. but he definitely fits the offense. I think he'll be a big-time, premier back next year."

Another obvious adjustment was going from feature back at Gulf Coast CC to a rotation role in the SEC. Except Ballard has never minded sharing the snaps; first since he has teammates who can carry the load as well, and second because it has reduced wear-and-tear along the way. And even when he was hauling the ball 33 times against Arkansas, counting overtime, there was quarterback Chris Relf recording 31 carries of his own for 103 yards.

"To me it was one of Chris' better games," Ballard said. "He had like, over 200 yards passing and 100 yards rushing. Any time your quarterback does that, that's a pretty good game for him." Not to mention pretty good having a double-trouble sort of attack on the ground here at the end of a long season for everyone.

"Chris can beat them up a little bit and I can beat them up a little bit, then one of us make the big play when they get wore-down."

The Bulldogs fortunately are not showing any emotional wear or tear after a couple of frustrating SEC West losses. And even if they were, any such signs of weakness would vanish this week. As Ballard said, it is a must-win meeting, and he most definitely intends to be the one smiling biggest when he goes to shake post-game hands with a couple of former Gulf Coast CC teammates, defensive end Wayne Dorsey and safety Damien Jackson.

Just in case, though, Ballard said Coach Dan Mullen and staff have their share of week-long practice plans for added Saturday incentive. Exactly what, he didn't know to day but, "I'm sure we'll find out tomorrow."

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