For the first time in his Mississippi State career, junior quarterback Chris Relf took every snap from center and the result was an incredible confidence boost.
“I’m always confident so nothing has changed there,” Relf said. “All I had to do this week was execute.”
The junior finished with a career-high with 232 total yards and 21 rushing attempts out Dan Mullen’s spread-option attack and MSU won a 24-12 decision against Georgia.
“We played to his strengths a little bit – running the football to give him some confidence,” MSU’s second-year head coach said. “I was pretty pleased with Chris’ performance and his toughness out of the field.”
Relf spent the second half of last week’s loss at LSU on the sidelines trying to recover from a smashing hit by LSU safety Karnell Hatcher.
On the first drive of the second half, Relf was scrambling for a first down before Hatcher made contact with the Bulldogs quarterback near the upper body but referees did not throw a flag for a personal foul hit to the head foul which Mullen was arguing for on the sidelines.
The difference between last week at LSU and Saturday night at Davis-Wade Stadium was an obvious throw to sophomore wide receiver Arceto Clark that looked similar to the interception in the first quarter at LSU.
“I prepared myself to make that throw again and led Arceto like I should have last week,” Relf said. “I’ve realized now if I’m more prepared to play and know what that means then I’ll play well.”
MSU finds better kicking game performance
Mississippi State made some special teams personnel changes Saturday most notably in the kicking game.
Senior Derek DePasquale was given the kickoff and extra point duties throughout the night and finished with a pair of touchbacks. Mullen has been critical throughout the season of his kickoffs not getting the proper distance and hang time for the MSU coverage team.
Senior Sean Brauchle connected on MSU’s only field goal of the night as he drilled a 44-yard with the wind at his back to give Mississippi State a 10-6 lead early in the second half.
“We used both of them…hopefully that gets them out of whatever funk they’ve been in.” Mullen said.
MSUs head coach repeatedly pointed out the key pivotal moment of last week’s 29-7 loss at LSU was the kickoff out of bounds by Brauchle that took no time off the clock that followed the Bulldogs only score of the evening.
“Those are things that championship programs don’t do,” Mullen said. “When they seize momentum, they don’t just hand it over to the other team.”
Tight ends Green and Henderson out with knee injuries
Mullen continued to reiterate the point all week his two injured tight ends (junior Marcus Green and senior Brandon Henderson) would be game-time decisions as to their availability against Georgia.
Hours before kickoff Saturday we learned that decision was no.
Green and Henderson did not dress for the contest leaving the starting duties to junior Kendrick Cook.
Green is still recovering from a left knee injury to his right knee that kept him out of the second half of MSU’s 17-14 home loss to Auburn Thursday night. Green did not make the trip to Baton Rouge last week for the loss at LSU. Henderson suffered a right knee in the 29-7 loss versus the Tigers.
Mullen didn’t even bother to list any players on his weekly injury report and said all week during his media gathering that “both players ran” in each of the practice days this week. This is after the second-year Bulldogs head coach said Green was “good to go” for the LSU game after receiving the results of a weekend MRI scan
Green was not made to the media after again this week but MSU officials said Green’s participation was limited in practice.
Henderson met with reporters at the Bryan Building Monday using this popular refrain with the media who would ask about his health.
“My knee is fine,” Henderson said.
Mullen said this past Sunday that Henderson was the only injury coming out of the LSU loss that needed to be evaluated by the MSU medical staff before announcing his status for Henderson.
The senior wouldn’t comment on whether he’d received an MRI scan this past weekend or what was on the medical report given to the Bulldogs coaching staff or when the injury actually occurred against LSU.
“My knee is feeling pretty good right now so we’ll just take it from there,” Henderson said. “I think I played a play after (the injury) but it’s in the past now and I’m looking forward to Georgia.”