By LEE ADAMS
Mississippi State has started preparing for this Saturdayâ€™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.
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â€śThis is obviously a big game for us coming off that tough road loss last week and weâ€™re back on the road this week,â€ť said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. â€śIâ€™m excited for the game and excited how our guys came out and attacked practiced yesterday.â€ť
In an offense that hasnâ€™t been itself since week two, there isnâ€™t a quarterback controversy, but Chris Relf and Dylan Favre both got playing time in Saturdayâ€™s loss, and Tyler Russell has seen playing time this year as well. Relf is the starter for State and it doesnâ€™t appear that is going to change even though his numbers havenâ€™t been stellar of late.
â€śIf you look at some of his numbers, heâ€™s posted good numbers here and sometimes heâ€™s good, sometimes heâ€™s bad, a little inconsistent at times, but heâ€™s a senior and heâ€™s been through it,â€ť said Mullen. â€śWe were 1-2 last year and he turned it around and led us on a little bit of a win streak. Weâ€™re 2-3 this year and itâ€™s nothing that winning canâ€™t take care of. We start winning a couple of games and everybody starts feeling good about themselves.â€ťÂ
Relf threw for 157 yards in Athens but threw two interceptions and was sacked a few times.
â€śWe have to put Chris in his best position to be successful in doing what he does,â€ť said Mullen. â€śObviously getting sacked is not one of them, but you hope a 6â€™3â€ť, 245 pound guy is delivering as much of blow as heâ€™s taking.â€ť
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.
â€śIt was good that he got some reps, because you canâ€™t simulate being in front 90,000 people in an SEC game,â€ť said Mullen. â€śIt was good to get him out there to experience that.â€ť
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.
â€śWeâ€™re just trying to get him ready in case we get in a situation where he has to go play,â€ť said Mullen. â€śWeâ€™re getting him used to being on the field.â€ť
Russell hasnâ€™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.
â€śI wouldnâ€™t say he was at 100 percent, but he was cleared to play,â€ť said Mullen. â€śThe de cision of Favre preparing for the back-up role was because I didnâ€™t want to have to put (Russell) out there unless he was 100 percent healthy.â€ť
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.
â€śTheyâ€™re starting to get in the flow of the season right now,â€ť said Mullen. â€śLike weâ€™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.â€ť
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 hasnâ€™t made his mind up if thatâ€™s where Carmon will be again this week.
â€śWeâ€™re not set yet and weâ€™ll see how practice goes this week to see if he stays at guard or back to tackle,â€ť said Mullen. â€śThroughout the year, heâ€™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.â€ť
Carmonâ€™s move to guard came with short notice.
â€śHe played guard for a grand total of three days coming off an injury,â€ť said Mullen. â€śWhat Iâ€™m happiest with is his attitude and his approach of doing what it takes to help the team win.â€ť
Since he just moved to the offensive line during the offseason, Carmon is still new to what heâ€™s doing but Mullen is pleased with his effort.
â€śHeâ€™s a guy who hasnâ€™t played a whole lot of offensive line,â€ť said Mullen. â€śHe 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 thatâ€™s what you ask for. He played solid, he didnâ€™t play spectacular, but itâ€™d be hard to expect him to be spectacular in what we asked him to do.â€ť
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.Â
â€śHeâ€™s done a good job this year,â€ť said Mullen. â€śA lot was made early on in pre-season camp that we were missing some extra points and we didnâ€™t look real sharp, but thatâ€™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.â€ť
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.
â€śItâ€™s got to be the shoes,â€ť Mullen joked. â€śIt could be any number of things that keeps him in his groove. What really matters is when heâ€™s called to do his job, he comes out and he does it at a really high level.â€ť