September 5, 2009 11:15:00 PM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen likes the dimension sophomore quarterback Chris Relf''s running ability gives the spread offense.
That''s why Mullen had no problem calling a running play for Relf at a critical moment of the first half of Saturday''s game against Jackson State.
After senior quarterback Tyson Lee, of Columbus, started a drive that used 11 plays to move the Bulldogs to the Jackson State 5-yard line, Relf replaced Lee on fourth-and-1.
Relf took the snap, rolled option right, and kept the football for a 5-yard touchdown run with 48 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
That score enabled the Bulldogs to take a 14-0 halftime lead en route to a season-opening 45-7 victory in front of 54,232 at Davis Wade Stadium, the third-largest crowd in school history.
Mullen said Relf''s size made calling a running play easy.
"Tyson weighs 195-200 pounds and Chris weighs 240, so he''s got a little more oomph coming on that fourth-and-1," Mullen said.
Relf said his size wasn''t the only key on the touchdown. He was thankful he had hole to run through.
"I give all of the credit to my offensive line (because) without their blocking I wouldn''t have made that play," Relf said.
Even though Lee started the game, Mullen was true to his word and alternated series for Lee and Relf in the first half.
When Lee (8-for-13, 82 yards) suffered shoulder spasms in his shoulder in the second half, Mullen didn''t see any reason to put him back in the game and had total confidence in Relf''s ability to run the offense.
"(The trainers) said (Lee) could go if we wanted him to go," Mullen said. "We had been rotating, but we thought why bother with it right now, so we decided to give Tyson a rest because we didn''t need him to come back at that point of the game."
Relf was the Bulldogs'' leading rusher with 12 carries for 82 yards. He also was 7 of 10 passing for 75 yards, including scoring passes of 15 and 7 yards to freshman receiver Chad Bumphis and 19 yards to sophomore tight end Marcus Green.
Although very pleased with the way Relf played, Mullen said if Lee is healthy enough to play next Saturday against Auburn, he will play.
"We still see this as a two-quarterback system," Mullen said. "I''m not ready to put all of that on one of our two quarterbacks. Both will shoulder the load, and between the two of them, I believe they can handle it."
The MSU defense gave the offense good field position to work with by forcing five turnovers.
Mullen said defensive coordinator Carl Torbush and the defensive staff did a good job preparing for the Tigers.
The ability to rotate defenders helped the Bulldogs stay fresh.
"We want a defense that''s deep and we can rotate when we play in the Southeastern Conference," Mullen said. "We have to be able to roll guys through, and I was proud of everybody that stepped on the field on the defensive side."
Wade Bonner led the Bulldogs with four tackles, while Corey Broomfield and Charles Mitchell had one interception each, and Marcus Washington, Jamie Jones, and K.J. Wright had one fumble recovery each.
Malcolm Palmer led Jackson State with 8 1/2 tackles, while former Noxubee County player Marcus Jamison had six.