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Gator Bowl: Wolverines Humiliated By Mississippi State, 52-14

(Sports Network) - Chris Relf connected on 18-of-23 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns and added another on the ground as 21st- ranked Mississippi State thoroughly dismantled Michigan, 52-14, in the Gator Bowl.

Relf added 39 yards rushing while Vick Ballard carried 19 times for 74 yards and three scores for the Bulldogs (9-4), who set a Gator Bowl record for points in closing out their season by winning eight of their last 10 games.

"I told Chris during the warmups I thought he was going to play his best game of the season," Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said about Relf, the game's MVP. "I thought he did a great job of managing the game."

Denard Robinson threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns on 27-of-41 efficiency and carried 11 times for 59 yards for the Wolverines (7-6), who lost their final three games of the campaign.

Robinson finished the season with 1,702 yards on the ground to set the NCAA single-season rushing record for quarterbacks. He also accounted for a school- record 4,272 yards of total offense.

Roy Roundtree made nine receptions for 53 yards and a score for Michigan, which fell to 19-21 all-time in bowl games.

"All in all, we didn't play as well as we could play and they played extremely well," embattled Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. "They made plays and we didn't. They tackled better than us, they caught better than us and they ran better than us."

Things started well for the Wolverines, as Robinson threw a 10-yard touchdown to Roundtree to finish off the game's first possession in which they moved 78 yards in 10 plays.

The Bulldogs responded on their first touch, covering 79 yards in 11 plays to even the score on a four-yard scoring toss from Relf to Arceto Clark, who made the catch and stretched out to cross the plane of the goal line with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the opening quarter.

Michigan was forced to punt on the next series and Marvin Bure partially blocked the kick, setting up the Bulldogs at the plus-29.

However, the Mississippi State offense could not pick up a first down bringing on Derek DePasquale to boot a 42-yard field goal to make it a 10-7 game with 2:23 remaining in the quarter.

Michigan needed only five plays on the next possession to move back in front. Robinson completed four passes on the quick drive, the last going to Martavious Odoms for a 27-yard touchdown to give the Wolverines a 14-10 lead with 34 ticks left in the period.

The 24 first quarter points were a Gator Bowl record, besting the 22 put up by Florida State and West Virginia in the 2005 game.

From there, things completely fell apart for the Wolverines as the Bulldogs reeled off 42 unanswered points to win their first appearance in a New Year's Day bowl game since the 1999 Cotton Bowl.

Ballard finished off a 10-play, 77-yard march by banging his way in from two yards out to put Mississippi State back in the lead for good with 11:38 left before the break.

Johnthan Banks intercepted Robinson on the ensuing possession giving the Mississippi Sate offense starting position at the Wolverines 43.

Ballard ran for five yards on 4th-and-2 to keep the drive going before Relf finished it with a one-yard scoring scamper over the right side to push the lead to 24-14 with 6 1/2 minutes left before the intermission.

Relf then connected with Ricco Sanders from 15 yards away with 25 seconds left in the half to make it 31-14 and establish a Gator Bowl with 45 first-half points.

Following a rare defensive stop, Brendan Gibbons missed a 35-yard field goal try on Michigan's first second half possession.

"When we got behind, we probably pressed a little bit and didn't concentrate as much," Rodriguez added. "We obviously didn't tackle well and couldn't get our defense off the field. And when we had the chance to develop some momentum offensively, particularly in the red zone when you can't kick field goals, it hampers you a little bit."

Mississippi took advantage of the miss and once again, methodically moved down the field to add to its lead. Ballard crossed the goal line from a yard out to cap off a 14-play, 80-yard march that ate up 5 1/2 minutes.

The Wolverines marched right down the field on 13 plays on the next series only to come up empty when Robinson's pass on fourth-and-goal intended for Junior Hemingway was knocked away by Banks on the right side of the end zone.

Whatever comeback hopes Michigan had where then permanently dashed on the very next play, Relf and LaDarius Perkins hooked up for an 81-yard catch and run that moved the ball to the Michigan seven from where Ballard found paydirt on the next play to make it 45-17 with 10 ticks left in the period.

Relf's final touchdown came on a 4th-and-10 pass to Michael Carr, who shed a tackle inside the 15 and raced into the end zone with 10 1/2 minutes to play.

"The nation saw us play and win on January 1 against a great program in Michigan," Mulled added. "This is the foundation of big wins to come."

Game Notes

Mississippi State is 7-7 all-time in bowl games...The 52 points scored by the Bulldogs was also a school record for a bowl game...Mississippi State was the SEC first team to play in the Gator Bowl since 1994...It was the Bulldogs first game against a Big Ten opponent since a 1980 meeting with Illinois...Chris Smith led Mississippi State with four catches, totaling 46 yards...Carr made three grabs for 65 yards and Perkins added a pair of catches for 79 yards...Perkins also carried nine times for 39 yards...The Bulldogs produced 485 yards of total offense, the second-highest total in a bowl game behind the 499 yards gained against North Carolina in the 1974 Sun Bowl...Robinson's 1,702 rushing yards was the fourth-highest single-season total in school history...Michigan lost all six games it trailed at the half this season...The Wolverines are 7-4 versus the SEC in bowl games...Michigan is 1-2 in the Gator Bowl, having lost to North Carolina in 1979 and defeated Ole Miss 12 years later...Darryl Stonum caught seven balls for 59 yards while Hemingway made four grabs for 50 yards in defeat. Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez is 3-4 in bowl games, including a 1-3 mark in the Gator Bowl...Odoms played for the first time since breaking his foot against Michigan State on October 9...He returned seven kickoffs for 163 yards.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.