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Vick Ballard leads rushing attack as Mississippi State cruises

HOUSTON -- Vick Ballard ran for 134 yards and three touchdowns and Mississippi State rushed for 409 yards in a 47-24 win over Houston on Saturday night.

The Bulldogs (4-2) held Houston's high-powered offense to 47 yards rushing and snapped the Cougars' 18-game home winning streak.

Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf ran for 96 yards and a touchdown before leaving in the third quarter with an injury. The Bulldogs ran 80 plays and finished with 538 total yards.

Corey Broomfield returned an interception for a touchdown off Houston quarterback David Piland, a freshman who made his first career start. The Cougars (3-2) played their second game since senior QB Case Keenum sustained a season-ending knee injury.

Piland completed 30 of 57 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He started ahead of freshman Terrance Broadway, who led Houston past Tulane on Sept. 25. Coach Kevin Sumlin worked each quarterback equally over the last two weeks, and kept his choice for the starter a secret until just before kickoff.

Piland went 5 for 5 on the Cougars' first series, and hit Kierrie Johnson for an 18-yard touchdown. The Bulldogs smothered the Houston offense for the rest of the half, yielding only 121 yards.

Patrick Edwards fumbled Mississippi State's first punt, setting up Ballard's 5-yard touchdown run with 9:25 left in the first quarter. Ballard has scored in each of the Bulldogs' games this season.

Ballard broke a 54-yard run on Mississippi State's next snap, and Relf charged into the end zone two plays later to put the Bulldogs ahead 14-7.

The 5-foot-11 Ballard scored again about five minutes later, as the Bulldogs' massive offensive line continued to pave huge holes. Mississippi State rushed for 142 yards in the opening quarter.

The Bulldogs earned a safety when Houston left tackle Jaryd Anderson was flagged for holding in the end zone. Punter Richie Leone shanked the ensuing free kick, and the Bulldogs started the second quarter with the ball at the Houston 30. Sean Brauchle kicked a 47-yard field goal for a 26-7 lead.

The Cougars drove for a field goal, but Broomfield intercepted a Piland pass just before the break and returned it 27 yards for a decisive touchdown.

Tyler Russell replaced Relf and threw a 33-yard pass to Chad Bumphis. Ballard spun for another touchdown run on the next snap for a 40-10 lead.

The Bulldogs became the seventh team in school history to score 40 points or more in three games during one season.

Piland threw a 17-yard TD pass to Edwards in the third quarter. The Cougars blocked two field-goal attempts by Brauchle in the second half.

LaDarius Perkins had a 20-yard touchdown run for Mississippi State with 7:08 remaining. Broadway replaced Piland and drove Houston for a score in the final five minutes.

Houston played without leading receiver James Cleveland, who was suspended this week for breaking team rules.