October 8, 2012 10:09:56 AM
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- What must have looked like a dangerous option for Mississippi State University quarterback Tyler Russell turned out to be a bailout for a touchdown Saturday.
Russell's first touchdown target Saturday in a 27-14 victory against the University of Kentucky was an unlikely target on a unique play. But junior fullback Adrian Marcus made the most of a throwback screen to the left side of the field to score his first touchdown on his first catch in his three-year MSU career.
"(MSU fullback Sylvester) Hemphill was mad because I saw (MSU running backs coach) Greg Knox took Hemphill out and put Adrian Marcus in for the play right there," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "There will be some discussions, I'm sure, in the running back meeting room this week. Those guys don't get the ball very often, so when one is about to come their way, it's a pretty rough fight to get that football."
Saturday marked the second game Marcus was used as a fullback and as a backup tight end and in the H-back position because sophomore Malcolm Johnson was out with a pectoral injury.
"My role on the team is whatever the coaches want me to do because the more I can be on the field, the more I can help my team win," said Marcus, a 21-year-old transfer from the U.S. Naval Academy, two weeks ago.
Marcus saw his role increase in the spring after he was used as a utility player at fullback, tailback, H-back, tight end and on special teams.
"My role is whatever they want me to do this year," Marcus said. "Hopefully next time this year, you'll be talking about my scholarship."
Marcus had success in a scrimmage at Davis Wade Stadium before the Maroon-White spring game, including a 38-yard touchdown run to cap an 82-yard afternoon on just five carries.
"I got my first carry against Memphis in last year's season opener and another one at LSU, so I've seen some big crowds," Marcus said in the spring. "Hopefully I can earn more playing time this season."
Marcus' 10-yard touchdown reception against Kentucky appeared to be a dangerous throw because Russell had to throw across his body body. He said the play was one of many examples when he went to his third, fourth or fifth option. Senior wide receiver Chad Bumphis was Russell's first option on the play, but Kentucky had him double covered. Still, Russell knew Marcus would be open if he needed him.
"I was a little late (on the throw)," Russell said. "I thought I was going to get the touchdown to Bump or whoever else was out there on the smash route, but it didn't happen, so I got it back as quick as possible and I threw it, and it worked out perfect."
Instead of giving Russell a pre-determined location for the pass before the ball is snapped, which is something a lot of teams do with inexperienced quarterbacks, MSU's coaches proved they have confidence in Russell to go through his reads in the pocket. Russell said the touchdown play was something MSU added to the playbook based off its scouting report.
"We put that play in because a couple of teams tried to run that play against them, and we saw that was open ... and it was good to see him get a touchdown," Russell said.
The 10-yard touchdown reception, which included a clear-out block by junior guard Gabe Jackson, saw Marcus, a walk-on from Alabaster, Ala., break two tackles on his way to the end zone.
Asked if the play call and result would cause some jealousy among other tailbacks or fullbacks this week, Russell shook his head and said Marcus didn't say much to him after the score.
"No. He was just happy," Russell said.
1. Finally, racing returns to Golden Triangle LOCAL SPORTS
2. Current Bulldogs resembling 2013 baseball team COLLEGE SPORTS
3. MSU's RPI still high as No. 3 Florida prepares to visit COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Humphreys emerges as MSU's hottest hitter COLLEGE SPORTS