Defense gets revenge in MSU practice

April 4, 2010 12:12:00 AM

David Miller -


STARKVILLE -- Pernell McPhee admitted there was some revenge laid out during Mississippi State''s football scrimmage on Saturday.  


Just one day after being dominated by the offense, the defensive meetings "weren''t pretty," MSU coach Dan Mullen said following Saturday''s work.  


Because of Friday''s offensive highlights, the "get-back" McPhee mentioned made it rough on MSU''s offensive line in a defensive-dominated scrimmage that included interceptions by Louis Watson, Arceto Clark and Maurice Langston. However, Watson''s was the only pick charted because it took place in the open-field portion of the scrimmage. 


A big reason for the turnovers was the pressure caused up front in co-defensive coordinator Manny Diaz''s new, attack and read defense.  


"We were getting vertical up the field and knocking everything back, making collisions in the backfield," McPhee said. "That''s what jumped out. The hard work we''ve put in these days, it''s way different from last year. Last year, we  were doing a whole lot of reading, but this year we''re doing a whole lot of attacking." 


Saturday''s scrimmage included open-field work, along with red zone and situational drives for both the first and second strings.  


Junior Chris Relf ran the first-team offense, while redshirt freshman Tyler Russell ran the second team. Russell came away with the better numbers on the day, going  12 of 17 for 156 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  


Relf had a 62-yard touchdown run and completed 7-of-11 passes for 33 yards. While both quarterbacks had positive performance overall, including Relf''s 60-yard bomb to Chad Bumphis, both had to work under pressure for the majority of their attempts.  


Mullen prefers it that way, believing it will accelerate the learning curve for Russell and prepare both quarterbacks for delivering the ball under pressure.  


"We''re going to blitz and come after you, and those are the situations you want to put your quarterbacks in," Mullen said. "In the spring, especially, make them have to make quick decisions with people coming after them all day long." 


Saturday''s scrimmage produced sacks from James Carmon, Fletcher Cox and McPhee, and the latter of the trio believes the simplified scheme is paying dividends for everyone across the defensive front. 


"The defensive line, we really surprised ourselves," McPhee said. "We done got a lot more aggressive. We play with a lot more technique and we play faster getting off the ball." 




QBs settling in 


This time last year, none of Mississippi State''s quarterbacks were comfortable with a new system, new coaches and a new way of operating.  


A year later, Mullen can notice the difference in the team''s quarterbacks and how they''re operating. The key thing in Mullen''s eyes is the way Relf and Russell are "managing the game," instead of pressing to make a play out of desperation. 


"When you look at game management, a quarterback''s job is get us in the right play, make the right decisions, protect the football, and when a play''s there to be made, make it," Mullen said. "When it''s not, that''s OK, just manage the game because we''re going to have a play there to make.  


"This is Tyler''s first real go around of getting a great shot at it, and with Chris, he''s just so much more comfortable in everything going on this time now than he was last year because he''s more relaxed and trying to manage the offense instead of trying to figure out what to do on every play." 


Russell had an interesting take on his development from wide-eyed freshman to having a year of work in the offense.  


"There''s three ways of learning," Russell said. "You''ve got to know what to do, how to do it and why to do it. Right now, I''m figuring out how to do because I know what to do. Then I can get to why to do it.  


"I feel like the redshirt year helped a lot." 


Along with game management, Mullen liked what he saw in the red zone scenarios following the open-field scrimmage work on Saturday. Relf had a touchdown run, while Russell threw two red zone touchdowns to Bumphis and tight end Brandon Henderson.  


"The quarterbacks threw the ball better and stood in there," Mullen said. "Tyler was getting hit a whole bunch but continued to throw the ball well. Then we came back and scored a bunch in the red zone. The defense was blowing the offense out in the scrimmage, all of a sudden, we score a bunch of consecutive touchdowns. That''s what you got to have. 




Offensive line takes a step back 


While the defensive line drew the majority of praise after Saturday''s scrimmage, Mississippi State''s offensive line took the brunt of the defense''s dominance. 


Mullen came away disappointed with the offensive line''s performance in picking up blitzes and handling the aggressiveness of the Chris Wilson-led unit.  


"Offense came out and had a good practice yesterday and really moved the ball well. [Offense] came out today and we didn''t have the intensity we needed up front," Mullen said. "No one stepped up to give that leadership when things weren''t going well. 


"We''ll go back and watch film. I want to see improvement. The defense corrected the mistakes they made yesterday and the offense needs to come out Tuesday and correct the mistakes we made today." 


Relf said the offensive line got "confused" on some of the blitz packages, though he''s confident the mistakes will get corrected.  


Left tackle Derek Sherrod believes the team''s lack of communication along the line led to some of the confusion, although he admits the energy from the defense wasn''t matched.  


"They came at us and had a pretty good scheme," Sherrod said. "We didn''t play to the best of our abilities on the offensive line. They know our weaknesses, but we have to counter. We know our assignments and all we have to do is fulfill them. We''ll review some things and alter some things in our next practice.  


The Bulldogs will return to the practice field Tuesday.