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Playing catch causes MSU's Russell, Smith to reflect on old times

October 21, 2012

Mississippi State wide receiver Chris Smith (8) caught a pair of touchdown passes from Meridian High School teammate Tyler Russell against Middle Tennessee on Saturday night. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

Tyler Russell and Chris Smith were a part of a Meridian High School football team that achieved a 14-1 record and a Class 5A State championship.

Now the pair is enjoying another successful run as members of the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

The two former Wildcats hooked up for two touchdown passes on Saturday night as the Bulldogs defeated the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 45-3 and remained undefeated at 7-0.

Smith caught a 4-yard touchdown from Russell in the first quarter and they connected again on an 11-yard score in the third quarter.

"I kind of have a feeling he's going to make big plays," Russell said. "It's not that I'm always looking for Chris. The second touchdown I threw to him, he wasn't even supposed to get the ball, but for some reason, the defense didn't do what it was supposed to do. I was supposed to throw it to the tight end and (Middle Tennessee) did a good job of defending that. Somehow I got out there and knew, (Smith) was open."

It turned out to be a career night for Smith with seven catches for 66 yards. He became the first MSU player with three or more catches in five-straight games since Chad Bumphis did it in seven-straight games from Nov. 21, 2009 to Oct. 9, 2010.

"Before the game, I felt good," Smith said. "I felt like I was going to be in a position to make plays. I expect to make plays and everyone else expects me to make plays. I had to step up."

Smith is second on the team with 26 catches for 293 yards. The two touchdowns against Middle Tennessee were his first of the season.

It seemed like old times for Smith, who had 70 catches for 1,076 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at Meridian with Russell at quarterback.

"(It was) like in high school, we had nights like this," Smith said. "I trust him just as he trusts me. That's how it's supposed to be, but we have other good receivers too. Tyler is just going to try and spread the love. Whoever gets open, he's going to try his best to get them the ball.
"We've just been together. We're still learning from each other and learning each and every day. It's a learning process."

Russell continues his sparkling play for the Bulldogs this season by completing 122-of-203 pass attempts for 1,573 yards, 15 touchdowns and only one interception.

It is Russell's hope that MSU continues to play well as a team going into this Saturday's matchup against the undefeated and defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.

"It's been a long time coming and we're finally starting to step up," Russell said about finding Smith for pass receptions. "We're excited and making plays. It feels good right now, but we've got to keep it going because we haven't done anything yet."

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