April 19, 2009
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State Bulldogs got a taste of what coach Dan Mullen''s spread offense could be on the football field on Saturday night.
In a full game scrimmage, the Maroon team came from behind to defeat the White 24-21 in the Maroon-White Game at Davis Wade Stadium.
The announced crowd of 31,606 was the largest ever to watch a spring game at MSU.
Although the Bulldogs did not show fans an all-out offensive explosion, it was enough to satisfy Mullen.
"We executed on both sides and that''s what we wanted," Mullen said. "They looked like they had fun while doing it. We built a foundation of what we expect from our guys as far as effort out on the field."
Maroon quarterback Tyson Lee (19 of 33, 251 yards), of Columbus, and White QB Chris Relf (13 of 26, 195 yards) were the primary signal callers.
Relf was glad to see his production because he had been struggling with his throws this spring.
Now he believes there is something to build on.
"We came out here to have fun and go 100 percent," Relf said. "We''ve got a lot of things to clean up in the summer with the passing game."
White tailback Anthony Dixon (11 carries, 59 yards) said there was a big difference in the MSU offense this spring than in past years.
There weren''t very many days where the defense held the upper hand.
"I felt we were strong the whole spring," Dixon said. "This year, we had a lot of practices where the offense was talking noise and we had room to speak. We were out there moving the ball and that makes it look bright for the future."
The only turnover came late when Maroon linebacker Tyler Gregory intercepted White backup QB Riley Saunders. That led to a 24-yard game-winning field goal by Derek DePasquale as time expired.
"It was a clean scrimmage, but there will be a lot of good lessons learned," Mullen said.
The White team held a 5-3 lead before even taking the field for the scrimmage after winning the circle drill.
Sean Brauchle made a pair of first-quarter field goals (28, 46 yards) to increase the White''s advantage to 11-6. DePasquale kicked one from 34 yards away for the Maroon team.
The two teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter as Dixon scored on a 4-yard touchdown for the White with 6 minutes and 8 seconds remaining, then Maroon fullback Sylvester Hemphill had a 3-yard run for a score with 29 seconds remaining.
The White team had a 18-13 advantage at halftime.
The Maroon team took a 21-18 lead when it scored the only touchdown of the third quarter. Lee hit tight end Kendrick Cook for a 5-yard score, then Lee completed the two-point conversion pass to Terrance Davis.
A 47-yard field goal by Brauchle tied the game with 10:29 remaining.
Maroon receiver Leon Berry, a transfer from East Mississippi Community College, was the leading receiver for either side (eight catches, 125 yards). O''Neal Wilder (four catches, 122 yards) led the White team.
"Each team had a couple of guys they were trying to get the ball to," Mullen said. "We''ve got to stay healthy at the receiver position and hopefully we''ll get Brandon McRae for the fall. If we do that, we''ll be able to put a decent receiving corp out there on the field."
As far as the quarterbacks, Mullen likes what Lee and Relf have given the offense.
He says both have athletic ability that can be utilized when allowed to receive contact.
"If we put a regular jersey on them, let them run around, do things they do well and make more plays with their feet, you might see even more production out of them," Mullen said.
Now that spring practice has come to a close, the evaluation process begins.
Lee likes the competition that he and Relf had during spring.
With signee Tyler Russell joining the mix in the fall, Lee knows it could get quite interesting.
"We want to continue to evaluate and look at this film," Lee said. "Chris and I make each other better. We know (Mullen) will put whoever he thinks is the best person out there."
The season opener for the Bulldogs will be Sept. 5 at home against Jackson State.