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Perkins returns to spark MSU offense

 

Matthew Stevens

 

STARKVILLE --¬†When LaDarius Perkins returned from Baton Rouge, La., last weekend, he immediately went to the training room for a treatment session. 

 

Perkins wasn't going to miss another game when it was clear the Mississippi State University football team needed him. 

 

After a right quad injury forced him to miss the first game of his college career last week, Perkins went to the MSU coaches and demanded to play Saturday in the team's home finale against the University of Arkansas. 

 

It was clear from Perkins' performance what the Bulldogs missed. 

 

Perkins had 147 all-purpose yards and helped MSU establish a running game in a 45-14 victory at David Wade Stadium. 

 

"I noticed and talked to (MSU running back coach Greg) Knox about it often today that we knew we could run the ball on them," Perkins said. "I knew the Sunday after LSU game I'd be playing, so that was never an issue." 

 

MSU coaches held the junior tailback was held out last week in a 37-17 loss at LSU. MSU coach Dan Mullen said after the game Perkins suffered the injury earlier in the week in practice and that consistent training staff meetings weren't able to get him healthy. 

 

But Perkins looked healthy running the ball and slipping out of the backfield on play-action passes for two touchdowns on wheel routes. His effort helped MSU 8-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) snap a three-game losing streak and regain momentum ahead of its regular-season finale next week (6 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU) against the University of Mississippi in Oxford 

 

After the victory in Starkville, MSU junior quarterback Tyler Russell said the Bulldogs saw on film that the Razorbacks' linebackers were weak in pass defense, especially against faster tailbacks who had a running start out of the backfield on check-down passes. 

 

"If the backer came underneath the coverage then I go to Perk. It's that simple today," Russell said. "If he went over the top, I got back side with a tight end or receiver. On both touchdowns, he came underneath, so I just gave Perk a chance. They were both open today." 

 

Perkins gave Russell a comfort zone in the pass game and an option in pass coverage when the junior quarterback held the football an extra half-second. 

 

"Perk is a guy I want in the game touching the ball all the time, but when we've gone another direction, he doesn't have to come out of the game to telegraph what we're doing," Mullen said. 

 

Perkins moved into ninth place all-time with 1,348 all-purpose yards in a season. He also tied his career high with two touchdown receptions. Perkins is seventh all-time at MSU with 3,302 career all-purpose yards. 

 

"The key for me was to stay healthy and make sure I was ready to play physically," Perkins said. "I'm one of the leaders out there, so my team needs me out there contributing and doing my job." 

 

On the rare occasion MSU went with a different back, sophomore Nick Griffin took one of his two carries 60 yards for a touchdown. Griffin's score was a career-long for him, and MSU's third-longest scoring play of the season. The run, where the sophomore went untouched on a sweep to the far side of the field, eclipsed Griffin's game total against LSU last week. 

 

"He looks like the guy we recruited, and you're starting to see that confidence he has in there," Mullen said. 

 

Mullen is 29-12 as a head coach when his team rushes the ball for more 100 yards. The Bulldogs piled up more than 500 yards of offense in a SEC game for the first time since putting up 531 yards in a loss at Auburn on Sept. 10, 2011. MSU, which entered the game ninth in the league in rushing, went for more than 200 yards rushing for the first time since a victory against Middle Tennessee State University on Oct. 20, and the fourth time this season. 

 

"We felt like if we could come out execute running the ball it would open up the pass and vice versa," Russell said. "We want that balance, and we can feel it when we do it well. I think we did well on that."

 

 

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