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Mississippi State crushes Memphis behind Relf, Ballard

Sep 2, 2011 - 5:09 AM Memphis, TN (Sports Network) - Quarterback Chris Relf and running back Vick Ballard combined for more than 400 yards of offense and five touchdowns Thursday, and No. 20 Mississippi State opened the season with a 59-14 win over Memphis.

Relf passed for 202 yards and two touchdowns, also scrambling for 51 yards, and Ballard rushed for 166 yards and three scores for the Bulldogs (1-0), who racked up 645 yards of total offense.

Freshman Taylor Reed passed for 149 yards and a touchdown with one interception for the overmatched Tigers (0-1). Sophomore Andy Summerlin, who started, was 3-of-5 for 25 yards.

The Bulldogs went 9-4 last season -- their best record in 11 years -- and finished No. 15 in the AP poll. They hope to be an even bigger factor in the SEC this year after starting a season ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2001.

Next up is No. 23 Auburn on September 10.

"We start conference play in [nine] days against the defending national champions," said head coach Dan Mullen. "A lot of schools get three or four games to get focused on that, but we have [nine] days to get all of those little things fixed and go on the road and try to win a big football game."

Their win extended a couple of streaks: They beat Memphis for the 12th time in a row and won their sixth straight non-conference game.

Finding little freedom from the MSU onslaught at the Liberty Bowl, Memphis scored its first touchdown only after the Bulldogs faked a punt in the second quarter while leading 24-0.

Billy Foster, who ran for 63 yards in the game, scored on a 21-yard rush. Reed connected with Marcus Rucker for an 11-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter for Memphis' only other points.

Tigers head coach Larry Porter said giving up 645 yards was unacceptable.

"Once the ball (carrier) got to the secondary, it was difficult for us to bring them down," said Porter. "They were generating speed and momentum, and we just couldn't bring them down."

The Tigers are coming off a 1-11 season, including an 0-8 record in Conference USA. They let this one get out of hand early, giving up more than 400 yards to MSU in the first half alone.

Indeed, it took just two plays on their second possession for the Bulldogs to score first.

After a nine-yard run by Ballard, Relf faked a handoff and found Chad Bumphis wide open down the seam for a 44-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead

Later in the first quarter, Ballard scampered around the left side and rushed 46 yards nearly untouched for a 14-0 MSU lead. He didn't encounter a Memphis defender until about the 10-yard line and easily brushed him off.

Foster fumbled on the ensuing possession and the Bulldogs turned it into three points on Derek DePasquale's 28-yard field goal.

Relf helmed a five-play, 59-yard drive that spanned the first and second quarters and connected with Arceto Clark for a 35-yard TD that made it 24-0.

Bulldogs punter Baker Swedenburg threw an incomplete pass on a fake punt at the MSU 34 and Memphis went 30 yards in three plays for a touchdown, pulling within 24-7 on Foster's 21-yard run.

But MSU went 98 yards on the ensuing drive and carried a 31-7 lead into halftime after Ballard's 66-yard run.

Relf and Ballard played fewer than three quarters. Before he sat down, Ballard scored his third touchdown on a one-yard run in the third quarter. Jameon Lewis added a 19-yard TD on the ground after a Memphis fumble.

Lewis caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Russell in the fourth quarter, and Russell ran for a 26-yard score for the final margin.

Game Notes

Mississippi State is 33-11 in the all-time series, including a 49-7 rout last season...Thursday marked the 16th time the two schools faced each other to open a season and the Bulldogs moved to 14-2 in those games...Lewis led both teams with 113 yards receiving...Russell passed for 138 yards...Rucker had a game-high seven catches for 73 yards for Memphis...MSU was without five players who were serving a one-game suspension.