November 19, 2012 10:04:23 AM
Matthew Stevens - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Chad Bumphis knew his sophomore and junior seasons didn't meet expectations.
That realization is why the senior wide receiver sent Mississippi State University football coach Dan Mullen daily text messages about his progress in summer workouts.
"The great thing about him is I get a text that says, 'Hey, how can I be better?' " Mullen said Saturday about Bumphis following a 45-14 victory against the University of Arkansas. "All summer long with him it was all about how can I get bet better?"
Bumphis has improved this season, and leads MSU (8-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) in receptions (49), receiving yards (758), and touchdowns (10).
On Saturday, Bumphis broke the school's single-season receiving record with his league-leading 10th touchdown catch, his second of the game, in his final appearance at Davis Wade Stadium. His two touchdowns extended his career record to 22.
Bumphis' desire to be remembered in Starkville helped him become one of the league's best receiver. He decided he would use film study to review techniques that he'd neglected after a freshman campaign in which he led the team with 32 catches, 375 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. It was an eye-opening experience that allowed Bumphis to be his worst critic.
"I wanted to get better," the 5-foot-10 Bumphis said Saturday. "As you go through your career you want to get better, but I felt like I was nowhere near where I could have been. I just wanted to see small things that would help me and make me better."
Bumphis, who was the first and arguably most important recruit Mullen signed nearly four years ago out of Tupelo High School, also moved into second place all-time with 150 career receptions and into eighth all-time in single-season receptions.
"It was just a little bit about playing with that confidence and trusting that experience," Mullen said. "He's made a lot of big plays for us."
This season, Bumphis is one of the four senior wide receivers who have worked with junior quarterback Tyler Russell in an offense that likely will break nearly every individual and team passing record. Bumphis scored Saturday 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.
"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 fit the first touchdown just over the outstretched hand of a defender to give MSU a 17-14 halftime lead.
"Bump, he's a playmaker," Russell said. "You just have to get the ball in his hands and he'll make you look good. That's what he did today."
Bumphis said last week he will have more than a dozen friends and family at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on 6 p.m. Saturday to watch him and MSU take on the University of Mississippi in the annual Egg Bowl. With Tupelo being between Starkville and Oxford, Bumphis asked whether those friends would wear maroon.
"They'll have to if they want in," Bumphis said. "I remember going to a game in Oxford when I was in high school, and let's just say things were said where I said right then 'There's no way I'm ever going to go to Ole Miss.' "
Bumphis can be part of the first four-year-class of players that will leave MSU with a perfect record against the Rebels. That fact was on his mind shortly after the victory against the Razorbacks.
"I have been waiting on this one for a long time," Bumphis said.
Bumphis reminded the media Saturday he had only one catch for 44 yards in his only appearance at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. He broke his collarbone on a play-action pass over the top of the defense and missed the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day. Bumphis can't wait to get back to Oxford to have one last chance to have a better performance against Ole Miss.
"I'm excited, and I'm ready to go to Oxford," Bumphis said. "I owe them. Last time I was there I broke my collarbone before I even got going. This time will be different."