SEC: Gator Bowl analysis

Mississippi State defeated Michigan 52-14 on Saturday in the Progressive Gator Bowl.

Here’s an instant analysis from the game:

How the game was won: Michigan’s Denard Robinson led the Wolverines on a 78-yard touchdown drive on the game’s first possession. But after that, Mississippi State’s defense clamped down on Robinson and the rest of the Michigan offense. Meanwhile, Mississippi State’s offensive line took matters into its own hands and hammered the Michigan defense into submission.

Turning point: After tying the game at 7 in the first quarter, Mississippi State’s Marvin Bure blocked a Michigan punt. The Bulldogs took over at the Wolverines’ 29 and tacked on a field goal, which was the start of a head-spinning 42-7 run to send Michigan packing.

Player of the game: Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf had a career game with 281 yards passing and three touchdown passes. He also rushed for a touchdown.

Unsung hero: Mississippi State first-year defensive coordinator Manny Diaz made all the right adjustments after that initial touchdown drive by Michigan, and Robinson was never really a factor the rest of the game.

Stat of the game: Robinson had two runs totaling 46 yards on Michigan’s first drive. He only had 12 more yards on the ground the rest of the game.

Record performance: Mississippi State’s Vick Ballard tied the Gator Bowl record for touchdowns by a running back with three. He finished the season with 19 touchdowns.

What it means: The Bulldogs (9-4) put the kind of bow on the season they were hoping for, punctuating that Dan Mullen indeed has this program headed in the right direction. By the same token, they likely drove the final nail in the coffin for Rich Rodriguez at Michigan.

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