November 18, 2012 12:41:14 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State University football record book is starting to see one name sitting at the top: Tyler Russell.
On Saturday in a 45-14 victory against the University of Arkansas, Russell broke the school's single-season record for completions (201), yards (2,523), and 200-yard passing games (seven). He also extended his single-season record of passing touchdowns to 21.
Russell became the first MSU quarterback to eclipse 2,500 passing yards in a season. He also earned his first four-touchdown performance since his debut in a MSU jersey two years ago in a 49-7 victory against the University of Memphis.
"It's huge (to break records like that)," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "We've broken a bunch of records since we've been here, and one day I'm sure they'll get broken again."
The former Parade All-American out of Meridian High School also maintained his single-season school records for completion percentage and passing yards per game. He finished 19 of 32 for 274 yards and four touchdowns against the worst pass defense in the Southeastern Conference. His four touchdown passes were the most for a MSU quarterback in a SEC game since Wesley Carroll accomplished the feat in 2007 against Arkansas.
"There is a lot of history at Mississippi State," Russell said. "Just for our offense to break records like that, it just lets you know we are going in the right direction."
Russell hit 10 receivers, but he featured two of his favorite targets -- junior running back LaDarius Perkins and senior wide receiver Chad Bumphis -- for touchdowns.
Bumphis' scores came on what he described as "option routes", where the receiver chooses which direction to turn based on the coverage. On these calls, the timing and non-verbal communication between the quarterback and receiver has to be near perfect, and that chemistry between the fourth-year players was evident. Russell fit the first touchdown just over the outstretched hand of a defender to give MSU a 17-14 halftime lead.
"It's just the result of working in the summer," Bumphis said. "Every day in the summer we are throwing and catching. It a major reason we're just on the same page."
Russell also moved into second place all-time for touchdowns in a season (23) and total offense for a season (2,553). He moved into third place all-time with 333 pass attempts in a season.
"A lot of guys this is their fourth year in the offense, so we are pretty well versed in everything, and it shows at this point," Russell said. "The coaches give us the plays, but we're not robotic out there. We have the freedom to make something out of them to the best of our abilities."
With one more season left under Mullen and offensive coordinator Les Koenning, Russell has the opportunity to be the most accomplished quarterback in school history. On Saturday, Russell tied Wayne Madkin for second in career touchdown passes (34). The two-time SEC offensive player of the week honoree is the school's record holder for career passing efficiency.
We came into this season and said, 'You're going to be as good as your seniors', and you look at that class knowing Tyler is a four-year player," Mullen said. "They wanted to go out the right way."
Love gets first career interception
Next season, MSU cornerback Jamerson Love will be a featured player in the secondary. Right now, he gets to play off the limelight of veteran teammates Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay.
Love had a chance to step into the spotlight Saturday when he made an interception on Arkansas' first drive of the second half. After the Razorbacks had earned a first down, quarterback Tyler Wilson didn't see the sophomore cornerback in the middle of the defense and he threw it right to the 5-foot-10 defensive back.
Love, a three-star athlete coming out of Aberdeen High School three years ago, had two pass breakups and a tackle for loss in nine games entering the game. Love has competed in 23 career games, mostly on special teams. He has seen more snaps with the first-team defense in the past month.
"That is huge for him," Mullen said about the interception. "When you see Banks and Slay with all the attention they get, he gets to learn from them. He is watching how they do things every day and with tremendous ability."
Chick-fil-A Bowl eying MSU as contender after victory
MSU remains on the short list for the school's first appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl since a 17-7 victory against Clemson University in 1999. That victory capped a 10-win season.
MSU (8-3, 4-3 SEC), LSU, and the University of South Carolina are in the mix for the New Year's Eve bowl game in Atlanta.
"With MSU, you have to look at the big picture," Chick-fil-A Bowl Chairman Leeman Bennett wrote this week on his blog. "A pair of wins to close it out against Arkansas and Ole Miss will probably get the Bulldogs ranked again and put them in great position for a trip to Atlanta."
MSU is projected by many websites, including ESPN and CBS, to make its second trip in three years to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.
Two years ago, MSU defeated the University of Michigan 52-14 in the school's only trip to the New Year's Day postseason game.