JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Chris Relf threw three touchdown
passes, Vick Ballard ran for three scores and No. 21 Mississippi
State overwhelmed Michigan 52-14 Saturday in the Gator Bowl.
The 38-point drubbing was the worst bowl loss in Michigan's
storied history and may have sealed the fate of Wolverines coach
Rich Rodriguez. His three-year tenure has been tainted by
consecutive losing seasons, NCAA sanctions and late-season slides.
Michigan (7-6) was out of this game early, done in again by a
defense that made a middle-of-the-pack Southeastern Conference
offense look like a juggernaut.
Relf and Ballard posed problems all day. Relf completed 18 of 23
passes for 281 yards, and added 49 yards on the ground. Ballard ran
for 77 yards. The Bulldogs (9-4) finished with 485 yards and punted
Denard Robinson, the Big Ten's offensive player of the year,
played every snap for Michigan and was dynamic as usual. He threw
for 256 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 58 yards. But he got
Now, he might get a new coach.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has not offered any
public support for Rodriguez, who fell to 15-22 and 1-11 against
ranked teams. Brandon has said he will evaluate Rodriguez after the
game. Speculation has been that he will fire Rodriguez and try to
hire Stanford coach and former Wolverines quarterback Jim Harbaugh
to lead college football's winningest program.
Rodriguez's buyout dropped from $4 million to $2.5 million
Michigan's finale, the team's sixth loss in its last eight
games, could make Brandon's decision an easier one.
The Wolverines scored on two of their first three possessions -
Robinson created big plays with his arm and his feet - but they did
little the rest of the day.
Mississippi State, meanwhile, scored just about time it had the
ball. The Bulldogs welcomed the warm weather and figured the
75-degree heat would work in their favor.
It was hard to tell how much it affected Michigan, which allowed
34 or more points for the eighth time in the last nine games.
The Bulldogs scored on all five possessions in the first half
and led 31-14 at the break. Relf, wearing No. 36 to honor late
teammate Nick Bell, hooked up with Arceto Clark for a 4-yard
touchdown in the first quarter and hit Ricco Sanders for a 15-yard
strike late in the second. In between, Relf ran for a score.
Ballard scored from 2, 1 and 7 yards as Mississippi State
pounded Michigan inside and out.
LaDarius Perkins had the biggest play of the game. He slipped
out of the backfield, caught a dump pass from Relf and scampered 81
yards. Brandon Heavens wiped out two Wolverines with a downfield
block to free Perkins. James Rogers made a touchdown-saving tackle
for Michigan at the 7, but Ballard scored on the next play to make
it 45-14 late in the third.
Mississippi State fan's clanging cowbells had taken over at that
point, completely drowning out the boos from Michigan's faithful.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)