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September 1, 2011
Ballard leads way for Bulldog offense
Mississippi State set an all-time record in total offense, totaling 645 yards against Memphis, breaking the previous record of 596 set in 1978.
Vick Ballard was a large part of that night, rushing for a career-high 166 yards and three touchdowns on only 10 carries, an average of 16.6 yards per carry.
Said head coach Dan Mullen, "Vick's a tough guy. Tough, physical football player. Makes things happen. He's kind of one of the cogs of the offense. He makes it go for us."
With the three scores, Ballard moved into a tie for sixth-place in all-time MSU rushing touchdowns, matching Dontae Walker's total of 22.
Ballard first points came on a 46 yard run up the left sideline as he beat the final man in the Tiger defense.
"They left the safety," Ballard said. "I beat the safety and it was off to the races then. I thought he was going to catch me, but I walked into the endzone, so I guess he didn't."
Highs and lows for redshirt freshman Lewis
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jameon Lewis also had a big impact on the game, though it was a mixture of positive and negative impact. Lewis was the team's leading receiver with four catches for 113 yards and one touchdown, but he also mishandled a couple returns, leaving MSU pinned inside their own five yard line. He and impressive 19-yard run for a touchdown in the third quarter, but he muffed a punt return just before that, giving Memphis the ball deep in MSU territory, leading to a Tiger touchdown.
It was a mixed evening for Lewis, leaving some wondering whether Mullen would chastise the freshman or congratulate him.
"Neither," Mullen said. "We teach him. I've seen the big plays, I expect the big plays out of him. I've gotten to see that in practice. I think he's an exciting player. Now what he needs to do is is learn how to be a good football player, not just a guy who's a good athlete once he gets the ball in his hands. Be consistent, be productive and field the ball when he's supposed to field the ball, hold on to it when he's supposed to hold on to it. If we can get that done, he's a weapon out there on the field, he can make things happen."
Lewis' biggest play came off an 80-yard catch-and-run touchdown from Tyler Russell in the fourth quarter, the first play of that length for MSU since at least 1996.
Five players suspended
Five Bulldogs were suspended for the season-opener for undisclosed violations of team rules. Fletcher Cox was the only starter missing, with Dylan Favre, Blaine Clausell, Chris Hughes and Malcolm Johnson making up the rest of the five. All players are expected to return against Auburn. This was the third straight year in which Mullen has suspended at least one player for the season opener in as many season as head coach. Devin Jones started in place of Cox.
15 freshmen make debut
Of the 21 combined redshirt and true freshmen on the MSU roster, 15 of them made their debut for MSU. Linebacker Matthew Wells and Kaleb Eulls both started as redshirt freshmen. Brandon Hill, Ben Beckwith, Jameon Lewis, Ferlando Bohanna, Robert Johnson, Jamerson Love, Jay Hughes, Dee Arrington, Dillon Day, Damien Robinson, Reed Gordon, P.J. Jones and Curtis Virges were the other freshmen seeing their first action.
Jones was the most impressive true freshman making four tackles, recovering a fumble and breaking up a pass. Jones earning praise from Mullen and defensive coordinator Chris Wilson, who said Jones played for no other reason than the fact that he earned it. Wilson said Jones was physical and impressive throughout camp.
Dawgs appear unscathed
Mullen said after the game that he thinks his team avoided any serious injuries. Chad Bumphis was a notable returnee, having been injured for the Gator Bowl and injured again in the spring. He opened scoring with a 44-yard touchdown from Chris Relf, but did not have another reception. Sophomore running back LaDarius Perkins, who had an illness early in fall camp, played minimally.
Carmon makes debut at left tackle
James Carmon made his much anticipated debut at left tackle, though he didn't impress anyone right off the bat. He was flagged twice for false starts within the first six plays of the game, but Mullen and offensive coordinator Les Koenning both said Carmon was fine after the rough start. Carmon said he was incredibly nervous right before his first play, in which he false started. After that first drive, Carmon said, he was fine.