Mississippi State’s run game was supposed to be led by senior running back LaDarius Perkins this season after he ran for 1,016 yards on five yards per carry to go along with eight touchdowns, but injuries have slowed the speedy tailback so far in 2013.
The season started off so well for Perkins vs. Oklahoma State in the opener when he ran for 53 yards in the first quarter vs. the Cowboys, but was limited to minus four yards the next three quarters. Perkins would then miss the Alcorn State and Auburn games with an ankle injury, but returned to run the ball five times in the Bulldog’s win over Troy two weeks ago.
He is the team’s fifth leading rusher and six other players have rushing touchdowns, but this could be the week that Perkins shows some of the skills he displayed during his 1,000-yard season. He did not play vs. LSU last season, but the Tiger’s struggles defending the run were evident in their loss to Georgia and win over Auburn.
In LSU’s two SEC games this season, the Tigers are allowing an average of 204.5 yards per game and that’s with Georgia’s Todd Gurley missing more than a half of action. Mississippi State is averaging 206.3 yards per game on the ground.
The onus will be on Mississippi State’s offensive line to win the battles in the trenches as Georgia did time and time again last week and open things up for Perkins to average at least four yards per carry. He should see more opportunities with Tyler Russell back at quarterback who is a pocket passer vs. the more mobile Dak Prescott.
Another running back to keep your eyes open for is true freshman Ashton Shumpert who has shown some flashes of being a strong between-the-tackles runner and capable of picking up the tough yards. However, this is a prime opportunity for the senior Perkins to have a splashy game and reassert himself in the Bulldog’s backfield.
He’s really been the forgotten man this season in Starkville, but he is one of the more valuable players on the team. When Perkins scored a touchdown last season, State was a perfect 8-0. Conversely, when he was kept out of the end zone they were 0-4 in games he played.
Look for Dan Mullen to get Perkins involved early and often and try to establish the ground game vs. LSU and win the line of scrimmage. That may be easier said than done, but Perkins is their best shot at pulling off the upset.