There was certainly a role-reversal after halftime. Ballard had ten totes in the first two periods and would touch it seven more times. But after just four changes in the opening half Perkins was given the ball five times in the third period alone and in the end a dozen total carries for 47 yards. Not huge numbers in themselves, and certainly not as dramatic as his overtime touchdown catch.
But it was a change of pace that helped on a night MSU's offense needed any aid it could muster. And, Perkins said, "I was getting in a rhythm, it felt like on a couple of those runs if I made a couple of moves I probably could have scored."
This time Ballard wasn't minding watching for a change. "That's what we need, to keep fresh legs on the field. Perk made me so happy tonight, I'm so happy for him, because I wasn't playing my best game and he came in and filled in."
Did Perkins ever, and in a physical style not seen much before. Ballard sure noticed. "I saw one play he spun one guy and broke a tackle, one guy went over his head or something, it had me jacked-up on the sideline!"
Coach Dan Mullen indicated more is in store. "I like to have the balance between the two, and Perkins was running the ball pretty well tonight. And we like to mix those guys up and keep that balance. We happened to be balanced tonight.
SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS: If he didn't have his ‘best' game, at least Ballard continued his march up the program touchdown chart. His 11-yard rushing score in the second period gave Ballard 24 for his two-season career, and tied him for third place on the career list. A four-way tie, too, with good company Jackie Parker, John Bond, and James Johnson.
The touchdown was one of Ballard's better efforts, too, and on a fourth down no less. Mississippi State had gotten to the 11-yard line largely on an end-around by WR Jameon Lewis, but was a half-yard short still. Soon as the ball was spotted, the Bulldogs not only didn't hesitate going for fourth down; they rushed to the line and snapped immediately before Louisiana Tech was really set.
Ballard hesitated slightly in the backfield before bouncing out around left end and off linebacker Craig Johnson. A downfield block left just enough room to get across.
"I was just trying to get in the end zone," Ballard said. "I smelled it…well, I didn't smell it, but I knew I was close! So I just had to get in."
PLAYING PERCENTAGES: The home crowd was relieved when CB Johnthan Banks staved off Tech's easy shot at go-ahead points with an end zone interception. They were not so satisfied by a fast three-and-out. And when the Bulldogs got the ball back at 1:15, after a Tech receiver dropped an easy catch for first down, Mullen's decision to play it safe and run the ball four-straight plays didn't set well at all.
Mullen, who did not use any of his three timeouts until 0:30 of regulation, had his reasons for taking the high-percentage approach. "We missed a couple of reads, I was hoping one more run would ‘crease' and then we'd shot down the field. We never really got out of our end.
He'll have to watch it again to be sure, but Mullen thought a couple of those runs—at the right end—nearly did crease. Anyway, he said the ball would have had to get out around the MSU 40-yard line before taking any shots at getting in field goal range.
Overtime, now, was another matter. Particularly given how his team got the ball back so quickly, against a Louisiana Tech team that had already suffered two heart-crushing losses this month. "When you get in that situation you don't want to get conservative. We made the interception and I don't want to put it all on a kick, I wanted to run our offense."
STAYING THE COURSE: And Mullen knew who he wanted running this offense. For all the frustrations Chris Relf endured, with erratic blocking too often and some apparent indecision, and some off-target passes, there was no one else to have calling the cadence at the end.
"Just go win the game, we're going to put it on you," was Mullen's advice to his senior quarterback. "We're still going, you've got to win the game. We went through the plays we were going to run so he knew it was still going to be on his shoulders to perform and go win it. And he did."
The backup quarterback status was rather uncertain this game anyway, with #2 Tyler Russell wearing a brace on one knee. Maybe Mullen might have considered changing the pace earlier in the game, but it stayed too tight and too tense.
"Chris was doing great things for us, I trusted Chris that we were still in the game and score to win; not trying to rally, come back or spark anything. We were right there in a tie game and felt he gave us the best chance to win. So we kept Chris in the game."
*CB Johnthan Banks collected his tenth career interception with the clutch end-zone pick. That put him one-up on fellow CB Corey Broomfield.
*MLB Brandon Wilson returned to the starting lineup, with last week's opener Brandon Maye out after suffering a concussion last week. Wilson stayed busy, too, with 18 total tackles (five primary, 13 assists) which is reportedly the most by any SEC player so far this season.
*Four Bulldogs each collected a sack on defense. That was as many sacks as the team had in the previous three games combined.
*The coin toss used a commemorative piece to honor the centenary of former President of the United States Ronald Reagan. Mississippi congressmen Greg Harper and Allen Nunnellee took part in the toss, which was won by Louisiana Tech. They deferred.
*After serving a three-game suspension for legal issues, including a stay in jail, LB Chris Hughes returned to active status. The sophomore was on the field for the first play, on the kickoff return team.