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Mullen: Relf healthy and will start

September 19, 2010

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen (left) and the Bulldogs did not have a very enjoyable evening in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday night. LSU defeated MSU 29-7. (Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press)

The announcement of Mississippi State’s starting quarterback was made as almost a flip comment nobody would notice, reminder to the media or quick answer to a question.
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen maintained Sunday that Chris Relf would be behind center for the 6 p.m., matchup against Georgia this Saturday in a response to addressing the junior’s health status after he was knocked out of the 29-7 loss at LSU.
“We stuck with Tyler (Russell) a little bit longer,” Mullen said. “Chris would have been cleared to go back in and play.”
Relf did not return to the game after being knocked out on 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 which Mullen was arguing for on the sidelines.
“We’ll get Chris checked out but they said he was fine to go back in,” Mullen said after the game. “There’s no reason to risk it right there but they expect him to ready to go next week.”
Relf finished the game 5-for-8 for 35 yards passing and the two first-half interceptions along with 46 yards rushing. Mississippi State’s starting quarterback for the first four weeks of the season did not meet with the media after Saturday’s game.
Mullen wouldn’t confirm if the junior quarterback was suffering with concussion syndrome on the sidelines but was confident he would be cleared to play against Georgia. The second-year head coach said by the time of the media conference that he hadn’t seen enough of Georgia’s new 3-4 defense to see how the two-QB system would work in week four of the 2010 season.
“I haven’t looked at (Georgia’s defense) long enough to evaluate that but Chris will be our starter,” Mullen said. “I wanted to give Tyler (Russell) an opportunity to finish the game and get some valuable road experience in the Southeastern Conference.”
Russell, a former Parade All-American from Meridian, responded to the Relf injury by completing two passes back-to-back, executing two draws and leading MSU to its first points of the game. After not seeing a single snap in the first half for the first time this season, Russell finished his first SEC road game 5-for-10 for 83 yards and three interceptions.
“LSU is probably the toughest place to play in so I got that out of the way,” Russell said. “You can’t blame one guy for those (interceptions) but as a quarterback I’ll put it on my back.”
Russell felt the intensity of LSU’s blitzing scheme that saw consistent pressure in between the MSU offensive tackles throughout the game and involved a bruising night for the Bulldogs backup quarterback.
Saturday night Mississippi State’s pair of quarterbacks finished a combined 10-for-18 for 116 yards and five interceptions.
Nagging injuries mount for MSU
The tight end position of the Mississippi State offense is beginning to resemble a MASH unit with the top two on the depth chart questionable with injuries.
Mullen said of all the nagging injuries that had Bulldogs players leave the playing field (senior safety Zach Smith, senior defensive end Pernell McPhee and senior tight end Brandon Henderson) the one to the backup tight end was the only injury that needed to be evaluated by the MSU medical staff today before announcing his status for Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff against Georgia (1-2, 0-2 in SEC).
Both Smith and McPhee returned to action shortly after being taken to the sidelines and finished Saturday’s game so they aren’t seen as injury concerns throughout this week.
Henderson, who was seen walking gingerly on the sidelines late Saturday night with a brace on his left knee, was starting at LSU in place of junior Marcus Green. The senior didn’t register a catch Saturday night against LSU and third-string tight end Kendrick Cook caught the only pass by a non-wide receiver all game long.
Mississippi State officials reported hours before kickoff that Green didn’t make the trip to Baton Rouge, La., because of his right knee injury and when asked to clarify Green’s health status Sunday, Mullen said the tight end was kept in Starkville due to excessive swelling in his knee.
“Marcus still had some swelling in his knee and what we want to do is find out where he is early this week to see what he can do,” Mullen said. “We hope to get him running around Monday or Tuesday.”
Mullen can ask for review on head-to-head hit
Mississippi State can ask the Southeastern Conference to review any play and is likely to do so involving Saturday night’s hit that knocked out Relf at LSU.
Relf did not return to the game after being knocked out on a smashing hit by LSU safety Karnell Hatcher.
On the first drive of the second half, Relf was scrambling for a first down before Tigers safety Karnell 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, which Mullen was passionately arguing for on the sidelines.
“He hit in the face helmet to helmet (and) Chris got a little woozy and came off the field,” Mullen said after the game Saturday. “I asked (the official) if it was helmet to helmet and he said absolutely not.”
Mullen explained Sunday that his coaching staff is provided a form to fill out to the conference office in Birmingham on questionable plays that could’ve been missed by the on-field referees. While the second-year head coach wouldn’t confirm if the hit to Relf would be one of the plays on the form, Mullen did say he’s filled out the form every week after a game and will do so after Saturday’s game as well.

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