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MSU eyeing challenge in Athens

September 27, 2011

Coming off a scrappy 26-20 overtime victory over Louisiana Tech last weekend, Mississippi State will venture between the hedges to Athens to take on a rare SEC opponent in Georgia (2-2).
The two teams have met just 22 times in the conference’s storied history.

MSU will look to win back-to-back games this season if they can find a way to pick up their explosive offense that has been missing since the first two games.

The Bulldogs gained 1,176 yards, the most in a two-game span in school history. However they have since sputtered to just 533 total offensive yards since then which included just two offensive touchdowns.

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said it’s an important game for both schools because this time last season Georgia was coming in with a similar record, but it was the maroon Bulldogs that pulled out a 27-24
win.

“It was a hard fought battle for four quarters, came right down to the wire,” he said. “I think winning that game really catapulted us into having a great season last year.”

After that win, the Bulldogs went on to ride a six-game winning streak to help solidify a Gator Bowl invitation.

For Mullen, it will be his first trip to Athens as a coach and he expects it to be a little noisy.

“I imagine it’s going to be a very hostile environment to go play in and to come out on top, we’re going to have to execute at a high level and play a great football game,” he said.

MSU executed much better offensively against Tech than they did against LSU the week before, racking up 340 yards of total offense comprised of a balanced attack. Chris Relf had just 164 yards passing and a touchdown but had four more passing attempts than the previous week. Relf so far has been a little inconsistent at times and Mullen says it’s a confidence issue for the second year starter.

“I think as a more experienced player, it’s easier to get in and out of those,” he said. “He’s still young. Even though he has experience, he doesn’t have a lot of experience. And we just have to coach him through those situations.”

The success for the Bulldogs no doubt has been the running game. Ranked third in the SEC, averaging a little over 217 yards, State has rushed for 100-plus yards in 27 games under Mullen, including 300-plus the first two games of the year. Senior Vick Ballard leads the team with 407 rushing yards and averaging 101 a game himself this season, almost half of the team’s total running game.

Turnovers will be key once again, in the Bulldogs victories this season, they’ve had three turnovers apiece, however in those two losses, they’ve had just one.

Georgia’s rushing attack is equally impressive thanks to freshman
Isaiah Crowell who had 30 carries for 147 yards, both career highs, as the Bulldogs rushed 56 times for 207 yards in their win over Ole Miss. He’s rushed for 100-plus yards twice this season, both against SEC opponents.

Sophomore QB Aaron Murray is beginning to build on a spectacular start to his career. This season, the Bulldogs are third in the SEC in passing offense, averaging 257.0 yards per game and against South Carolina, he threw a career-best four TD passes.

Relf will look to avoid keeping the football out of the hands of Georgia free safety Bacarri Rambo who had two picks against the Rebels last week and has four on the season.

The clash between the two Bulldogs kicks off at noon at Sanford Stadium.

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