October 12, 2009 9:43:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Upon further review, Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen admits he made a mistake.
After looking at the film of MSU''s 31-24 loss to Houston on Saturday, Mullen wishes he would have challenged a penalty involving senior quarterback Tyson Lee of Columbus.
Lee was called for an illegal forward pass after officials believed he crossed the line of scrimmage in the third quarter.
The play came on fourth down at a pivotal part of the game as the Bulldogs led 17-14.
Lee completed the pass to wide receiver Leon Barry for what would have been a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line.
Since the official threw the flag for Lee crossing the line of scrimmage, it was a 5-yard penalty and loss of down. MSU had to turn the football over on downs to Houston.
Mullen said the film revealed that Lee was behind the line of scrimmage when he threw the football and regrets not throwing the challenge flag.
"It was poor job by me for trusting that the replay officials in the box are going to do their job on every play," Mullen said on his Sunday teleconference. "That showed my inexperience as a head coach by not challenging."
Mullen says he sends in video of questionable calls every week to the Southeastern Conference office, but knows it''s mostly just a formality and doesn''t anticipate any response from the league on what happened Saturday.
"There have been times where I thought there should have been a holding call here or there and it wasn''t called," Mullen said. "Sometimes you get calls and sometimes you don''t. There''s really nothing you can do about it."
Mum on Relf
Mullen continued his silence on exactly why he chose to suspend sophomore quarterback Chris Relf for the Houston game and possibly longer.
Relf violated an unspecific team policy and that has been the only information that has been released by MSU officials.
"If you don''t know me by now, we''re never going to comment on disciplinary factors of what we''ll do," Mullen said. "All of that is handled internally."
Mullen said freshmen Daniel Stegall and Tyler Russell prepared in practice last week in case they had to be pressed into duty if Lee had gone down with an injury.
The Bulldogs used a two-quarterback system with Lee and Relf, but Mullen said that won''t be the case if a freshman has to play.
"I like playing two quarterbacks when it gives you a benefit," Mullen said. "Throwing a true freshman in there for his first action ever in a tight game, I don''t see the benefit in that situation. That''s why we chose to stay with Tyson."
Smith day to day
Mullen saw enough with the concussion of his former quarterback at Florida Tim Tebow to know a player can''t be rushed back from that type of injury.
That''s why he''s not taking any chances with MSU junior safety Zach Smith, who suffered the same injury.
Mullen said once again that Smith would be evaluated day to day and a concussion was something to take serious.
It''s still not clear exactly how Smith sustained the injury. He played the entire game against Georgia Tech, but missed valuable practice time last week and didn''t dress out for the Houston game.
Mississippi State freshman safety Johnthon Banks, from East Webster High School in Maben, earned his first career start in the secondary against Houston.
After only being at the safety position for two weeks, Banks relished the opportunity and wasn''t nervous.
"My teammates and my coaches trusted me," Banks said. "Coach (Tony) Hughes, Zach Smith, and Charles Mitchell all worked with me and got me ready to play. They knew I could play football, so I went out there to play as hard as I could."
Banks said moving from cornerback to safety has created a big change in coverage and techniques.
MSU coach Dan Mullen has been pleased with the progress of Banks, who had six tackles Saturday.
With Smith out with an injury, Banks could play a bigger role on defense.
"He may have gotten out of position once or twice, but as a young guy, I thought he did a pretty admirable job back there," Mullen said. "John has an extremely bright future as a defensive back. He can do a lot of different things with a guy his size (6-foot-2) and his range."
Chaney''s first pick
MSU senior linebacker Jamar Chaney has had the reputation of having the nose for the football.
The saying usually pertains to his knack for making tackles.
On Saturday, Chaney recorded the first interception of his career when he picked off Houston quarterback Case Keenum.
"I was just showing blitz and stepped over in the passing lane," Chaney said.
Keenum''s quick release and ability impressed Chaney.
"He''s probably the best quarterback we will see on the field this year as far as making reads and throws," Chaney said.
Sophomore safety Charles Mitchell 71-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter was his second interception of the season and career.
The score was the Bulldogs'' fourth non-offensive touchdown this season. They didn''t have one last season.
Lee rushed for a career-high 68 yards against Houston. ... The first-quarter sack for junior linebacker Chris White was his first as a Bulldog. ... MSU senior tailback Anthony Dixon is eighth all-time in the Southeastern Conference with 760 rushing attempts. .... The Bulldogs rushed for 330 yards as a team, the most since gaining 340 yards against Kentucky in 2004. ... MSU''s 490 yards of total offense was the most since it had 501 against Arkansas in 2007.