An MSU spokesman confirmed to the Starkville Daily News that Mississippi State starting defensive end Nick Bell was out for Saturday’s game after undergoing a surgical procedure on his head this week.
According to MSU officials, Bell began to feel headaches earlier this week and an MRI scan of his head found a mass near the brain. The mass was removed by a surgeon Friday and the sophomore was still in recovery at a hospital in Nashville Saturday morning.
“Hopefully earlier in the week we’re going to find out a lot more,” Mullen said after the game. “Nick is heavy in our hearts and we’re hoping he makes it back and is healthy.”
Junior Sean Ferguson got his first start this season in Bell’s place for the 49-16 win over Alcorn State and registered two tackles. Mississippi State also gave junior-college transfer James Carmon his first-ever start at defensive tackle.
“(The rotation is) really standard as usual,” MSU defensive line coach Chris Wilson said Monday. “We’ll get some guys in, give some young guys some opportunities to come in and compete, guys like (defensive ends) Kaleb (Eulls) and Corvell Harrison-Gay, Trevor Stigers.”
It is still unknown what the biopsy tests on the mass revealed and also is not known how long Bell will be out of action. The sophomore had seven tackles and two of which for losses in the first four games of the 2010 season. Bell had started both the Auburn and Georgia home games this season.
Mississippi State senior receiver Leon Berry said Mullen read a message from Bell to the players before they took the field Saturday afternoon.
“We kind of put him on our shoulders and played for him today,” Berry said. “We were kind of pumped that he sent us a text message and we better not let them score.”
At the end of the game in the locker room, Mullen presented the game ball to Dr. Allen Sills, the surgeon who performed the operation on Bell, with order to give the ball to Bell Saturday night.
State breaks out Wildcat and Pistol formations
Mullen promised when he was hired to bring the spread formation to Starkville.
Saturday marked the day MSU fans got more than they bargained for in terms of formations and offensive sets in the Bulldogs playbook.
The 49-16 victory saw four different players take the snap from center as the Bulldogs operated both the Wildcat running formation and the Pistol passing scheme throughout the afternoon.
“I just wanted to get those guys the ball,” Mullen said. “There are some guys who got reps doing it in practice this week so hopefully we can keep developing that package.”
One of those players that Mullen felt needed to touch the ball was sophomore receiver Chad Bumphis. MSU’s second-year head coach texted the Tupelo native last Monday and asked him how he felt about taking snaps as a Wildcat quarterback and since Bumphis was the Tupelo High School quarterback less than three years ago, the answer the was obvious.
“Of course I was excited,” Bumphis said. “We haven’t put any (passing plays out of the Wildcat) in yet but we’ll see.”
Bumphis took the third play of the game 24 yards for a first down and broke three tackles on his way to set up the game’s first touchdown.
Throughout the game Bumphis would finish with 190 all-purpose yards (133 receiving, 38 rushing and 19 on punt returns). The only thing missing for Bumphis now is passing yards as he said he will now bug Mullen to let him throw a pass.
“If he can get the ball to me, I think I can be a pretty good receiver,” MSU quarterback Chris Relf said.
The Bulldogs also used redshirt tailback LaDarius Perkins as the Wildcat quarterback but unlike last week at Georgia did not attempt a pass.
Mississippi State also used the pistol formation in the passing game with both quarterbacks Relf and Tyler Russell.
In the Pistol, a hybrid of the traditional shotgun and single back offenses, In the pistol offense, the quarterback lines up 4 yards behind the center, and the running back lines up 3 yards directly behind the quarterback, 7 yards behind the center.
University of Nevada head coach Chris Ault developed the Pistol offense in 2004 as a way to add a power running game to the spread formation. In this formation, the quarterback is close enough to the line of scrimmage to be able to read the defense and far enough back to give him extra time and a better vision of the field just like in the shotgun.
Bridge delivers early blow
It was what Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz called it “a punch we were not ready for.”
That punch was a 78-yard touchdown run by a 6-foot-5 Canadian native quarterback from the Southwest Athletic Conference school.
“Honestly we were almost shocked,” Diaz said. “We were probably staggering for the next 10-15 minutes. We’d like to be outathleted that badly but that’s the way it looked.”
The score not only made it a 14-7 deficit for Alcorn State (3-1) but it put an aggressive Mississippi State defense on its heels for the rest of the half.
Alcorn State quarterback Brandon Bridge took a designed running play to the sidelines, juked MSU safety Nickoe Whitley around midfield and then ran untouched for the Braves first touchdown of the game.
“We saw how much they like to pressure the quarterback and we figured we could counter that,” Bridge said.
Bridge, a true freshman that was handed the job in the second half of week 2, finished the game with 270 total yards (193 passing and 77 running).
“He is going to make some outstanding plays,” Alcorn State head coach Earnest Collins, Jr. said. “We kind of let him get out there and do what he does best.”