October 16, 2009 8:53:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- The football programs at Mississippi State and Middle Tennessee State have had their share of adversity.
MSU coach Dan Mullen suspended sophomore quarterback Chris Relf for last Saturday''s game against Houston due to an unspecified violation of team policy.
As of Thursday, Relf''s availability for the teams'' game at 11:30 a.m. Saturday (ESPNU) in Murfreesboro, Tenn., remained uncertain.
"We know where Relf''s status is, but we don''t discuss disciplinary issues," Mullen said.
Relf alternated with senior Tyson Lee at quarterback before he was suspended.
MTSU had three players (sophomore linebacker Gerby Loreus, senior quarterback Nick Coleman, and senior wide receiver Patrick Honeycutt) arrested last weekend for misdemeanor alcohol-related offenses.
Like Mullen, MTSU coach Rick Stockstill hasn''t revealed how the players will be disciplined.
"They broke the law and will be disciplined in house," Stockstill said.
Relf has practiced this week and Mullen doesn''t anticipate any lingering effects from the suspension if he decides to play him.
"Missing last week''s game puts Chris a little behind, but he still has the ability to do things," Mullen said.
MSU (2-4) has used Relf when it needs a change of pace on offense. Relf is known more for his rushing (33 carries, 198 yards) than his passing (15 of 26, 213 yards).
Lee has observed Relf in practice and hasn''t noticed any rust, and he doesn''t anticipate any problems if Relf plays against MTSU (3-2).
"He''s gotten enough reps prior to this week and the summer that he really understands what''s going on," Lee said. "I don''t think (the suspension) will slow him down much. Just by the way he''s been working, I think it will keep him up to where he needs to be. I expect him to pick up where he left off."
Although he doesn''t mind Relf getting back into the mix, Lee said it was good for him to go the distance last week in a 31-24 loss to the University of Houston game and get into a flow.
Lee knows it doesn''t matter how comfortable he is if the Bulldogs keep turning the football over (13 times in three weeks).
"(We''ve just got to correct) little details," Lee said. "(Turnovers are) my fault, especially the fumbles. I have to work on the handoffs. On the passes, I missed reads and should have made better throws."
Stockstill is preparing MTSU for both quarterbacks.
"They still run the same thing," Stockstill said. "They rely and depend heavily on their tailbacks. That''s where their offense starts, but both of those quarterbacks are very capable. We won''t prepare any differently for either one. We''ve got to prepare to stop the run because I truly believe that''s what they will come in here and try to establish."
Stockstill might be ready to make a move at quarterback, too.
Dwight Dasher, who leads MTSU in rushing (304 yards) and passing (1,273 yards) and center Mark Thompson have been practicing this week with the second team.
Stockstill said he hasn''t determined a starting lineup, but Dasher is the type of athlete who doesn''t have to line up at quarterback.
Mullen said Dasher is "a talented quarterback" who has the ability "to take off and make some plays with his feet."
MSU defensive coordinator Carl Torbush said Dasher''s running ability compares to Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt. He calls Dasher a quarterback who "does a good job and has very good skill."
The Bulldogs expect the Blue Raiders to be pumped because it''s the first time they have played host to a Southeastern Conference school.
MTSU senior defensive tackle Brandon Perry is looking forward to the matchup, but doesn''t want to get too caught up in the hype..
"It is a big deal, but they are not any different than Troy, Clemson, Maryland or anyone else we play," Perry said.
MTSU lost to Troy 31-7 on Oct. 6, beat Maryland 32-31 on Sept. 19, and lost to Clemson 37-14 on Sept. 5.
Dixon nears record
MSU senior tailback Anthony Dixon will become the school''s all-time leading rusher Saturday if he gains 49 yards.
Dixon has 3,164 career rushing yards, while former Bulldog Jerious Norwood, of the Atlanta Falcons, had 3,212 yards from 2002-05.
Although Mullen said breaking the record would be a "neat accomplishment" for Dixon, the subject has never been mentioned or brought up in the locker room.
"The only thing Anthony has focused on is how to win football games," Mullen said. "That''s what''s great about Anthony Dixon."
The wild Bulldog?
There may come a time when the Bulldogs use the direct snap from the shotgun to wide receivers like freshman Chad Bumphis or junior Leon Berry to get them more involved in the offense.
Mullen said MSU hasn''t done it yet because Bumphis and Berry haven''t had much game experience.
That doesn''t mean it''s not in the playbook.
"It''s something we make look to in the future," Mullen said. "We want to get the ball in their hands so they can make plays."
Conner to be redshirted
Mullen hasn''t announced an entire list of redshirts, but he said freshman running back Montrell Conner, of Monroe, La.., would be one.
With three senior tailbacks, Mullen said it wouldn''t be fair to play Conner this season.
"We''re just going to protect him and not play him this year," Mullen said. "He''s done a good job with the scout team and has a bright future."