By LEE ADAMS
Mississippi State has started preparing for this Saturday's non conference showdown with UAB, and even though they are coming off their third Southeastern Conference loss and their second road loss of the year, the Bulldogs are ready to get back on the field.
"This is obviously a big game for us coming off that tough road loss last week and we're back on the road this week," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "I'm excited for the game and excited how our guys came out and attacked practiced yesterday."
In an offense that hasn't been itself since week two, there isn't a quarterback controversy, but Chris Relf and Dylan Favre both got playing time in Saturday's loss, and Tyler Russell has seen playing time this year as well. Relf is the starter for State and it doesn't appear that is going to change even though his numbers haven't been stellar of late.
"If you look at some of his numbers, he's posted good numbers here and sometimes he's good, sometimes he's bad, a little inconsistent at times, but he's a senior and he's been through it," said Mullen. "We were 1-2 last year and he turned it around and led us on a little bit of a win streak. We're 2-3 this year and it's nothing that winning can't take care of. We start winning a couple of games and everybody starts feeling good about themselves."
Relf threw for 157 yards in Athens but threw two interceptions and was sacked a few times.
"We have to put Chris in his best position to be successful in doing what he does," said Mullen. "Obviously getting sacked is not one of them, but you hope a 6'3", 245 pound guy is delivering as much of blow as he's taking."
Favre got his first in-game reps at quarterback against Georgia last week and failed to complete either of his two pass attempts. Putting in Favre was nothing against Relf, as Mullen was trying to get the youngster experience.
"It was good that he got some reps, because you can't simulate being in front 90,000 people in an SEC game," said Mullen. "It was good to get him out there to experience that."
Favre has been on the field in several other games on the punt block team and even got a play in at wide receiver before moving to quarterback last Saturday. The reason for him being in other positions than quarterback is to get him on the field.
"We're just trying to get him ready in case we get in a situation where he has to go play," said Mullen. "We're getting him used to being on the field."
Russell hasn't seen any playing time since the LSU game due to a knee injury, but was cleared to play the past two weeks which raised questions to why Favre took over the back-up role.
"I wouldn't say he was at 100 percent, but he was cleared to play," said Mullen. "The decision of Favre preparing for the back-up role was because I didn't want to have to put (Russell) out there unless he was 100 percent healthy."
Mullen is expecting Russell to be back to 100 percent this week.
Neither Relf or Favre could lead the Bulldogs to a touchdown on Saturday, but MSU did find the end zone late in the game on a pick-six by Darius Slay. The Bulldog secondary has been strong all season and are currently tied for second in the SEC with 8 interceptions this season.
"They're starting to get in the flow of the season right now," said Mullen. "Like we've said right from the beginning, those are some experienced players and to win football games, your experienced guys have to be play-makers and over the past couple of weeks our secondary has really stepped up and done those sort of things."
Another MSU player who has seemed to step up is offensive lineman James Carmon. Carmon has been one of the unfortunate linemen to have to deal with injuries this season, but he has also played two different positions since moving to the o-line this season. He started at left tackle the first two games of the season, but then a knee injury sidelined him for the LSU game. He returned against Louisiana Tech, but got his first start in two weeks last Saturday at right guard; however, Mullen hasn't made his mind up if that's where Carmon will be again this week.
"We're not set yet and we'll see how practice goes this week to see if he stays at guard or back to tackle," said Mullen. "Throughout the year, he's going to have to be a guy who we can depend on to have flexibility to do both in case there are some more injury situations."
Carmon's move to guard came with short notice.
"He played guard for a grand total of three days coming off an injury," said Mullen. "What I'm happiest with is his attitude and his approach of doing what it takes to help the team win."
Since he just moved to the offensive line during the offseason, Carmon is still new to what he's doing but Mullen is pleased with his effort.
"He's a guy who hasn't played a whole lot of offensive line," said Mullen. "He moves over gets settled and plays a game a half at one position as a starter, does decent at that position, and we moved him. He went in and played as hard as he could and that's what you ask for. He played solid, he didn't play spectacular, but it'd be hard to expect him to be spectacular in what we asked him to do."
The one guy MSU has been able to rely on for points this season is kicker Derek DePasquale, who has made eight field goals and 15 extra points.
"He's done a good job this year," said Mullen. "A lot was made early on in pre-season camp that we were missing some extra points and we didn't look real sharp, but that's something we never panicked about because it was a guy that we have a lot of trust in and had done it in game situations."
He fixed his pre-season problems and has been on point this season missing only one field goal. The kicker has been known to wear red contacts on game days and is know this season for his bright yellow shoes.
"It's got to be the shoes," Mullen joked. "It could be any number of things that keeps him in his groove. What really matters is when he's called to do his job, he comes out and he does it at a really high level."