A lack of big plays on the offensive end and containment defensively was the difference as Wake Forest fell 23-17 to Mississippi State in the Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl on Friday.
The Demon Deacons (6-7), who allowed touchdown runs of 60 and 72 yards to Bulldog running back Vick Ballard, were unable to answer as quarterback Tanner Price had trouble hitting his receivers when he wasn't getting hit himself. The sophomore was sacked six times and finished the game 24 of 46 for 214 yards.
Price and his main target, Chris Givens, just did not have chemistry on the night. With the announcement that the junior wide receiver is declaring for the draft coming after the game, it looked like Givens had checked out. He finished with 54 yards on nine receptions.
Stepping up for the Demon Deacons was Michael Campanaro, who had 10 catches for 128 yards. Camp ran good routes, finding holes in the Mississippi State zone, and constantly fought for extra yards. He returns next year along with tall receiver Terence Davis, and will be joined by redshirt freshman Sherman Ragland.
Campanaro described Ragland as a "burner" and raved about the freshman's playmaking abilities.
The Demon Deacons were in a lot of close games this season, and in a way, the loss to the Bulldogs is a microcosm of the 2011 campaign as a whole. Missed opportunities, bright spots and inconsistency were prevalent in losses to Syracuse, Notre Dame and Clemson this season.
Fortunately, Wake is a far cry from the three win team of a year ago. Despite losing players like Givens and senior Kyle Wilber, the squad is athletic and talented -- and should be able to take something away from the experience of heartbreaking close losses.