September 10, 2010 10:32:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- After lighting up the scoreboard against a woeful Memphis defense this past Saturday, much was expected in Act 2 of Mississippi State''s burgeoning passing game.
But on Thursday, the curtain came down on the aerial attack as soon as it took off when Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf had his first pass dropped by wideout Chad Bumphis.
Relf was off-targed on throws to several receivers, but wasn''t aided by five drops, the final going through the hands of Leon Berry on the second-to-last play of the game in a 17-14 loss to Auburn.
Relf, who took the majority of the snaps under center, faced considerably more pressure in the pocket than he did against Memphis. It showed in his stat line with three sacks conceded, but the inaccurate throws resulted from pressure as well.
Relf went 12 of 25 for 110 yards in the air. He added 26 rushing yards on 14 carries
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said his team graded out at 100 percent on half of its offensive plays against Memphis. He estimated just 10 percent of his team''s plays against Auburn would have perfect execution.
"I don''t always know until you watch the film, but I''m going to gaurantee you I''m going to watch the film and say, ''It was this guy on this play, it was that guy on that play,''" Mullen said. "We were doing some good things in there at times, but we''d just make a silly mistake."
Mullen didn''t divulge the details of why he stuck with Relf instead of redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Russell, but with Relf''s ability to run and the passing game struggling to catch fire, the junior, who has more experience, was an obvious choice.
Russell saw limited playing time against Auburn after throwing four touchdown passes against Memphis.
Mullen said the offense didn''t dial back on its play calls and take a more conservative approach once it was clear the timing was off in the passing game.
He also downplayed the notion of there being a tangible difference in the playcalling between the two quarterbacks, noting the strengths and weaknesses between them account for about one percent diversity of the gameplan.
After two games, Mullen doesn''t foresee making a change under center.
"Chris is our starter right now," Mullen said. "I see him being our starter until Tyler all of a sudden completely beats him out for the job."
Bumphis, who said he thought Relf threw the ball well, singled out the receivers for the offense''s struggles. Bumphis was held to five catches for 34 yards. His longest reception was for 10 yards.
"As receivers, everyone wants the role," Bumphis said. "We want it to where the quarterback can put it anywhere, and whoever''s open can make the play. For us as receivers, and me as well, I just think it''s time to step up and make bigger plays."
Miscues and sloppiness
Mississippi State was fortunate to head into intermission down 17-7 as turnovers and negative plays held back an offense that eclipsed 500 yards against Memphis.
Relf''s goal line fumble was recovered by guard Gabe Jackson for the Bulldogs'' first score, while the junior''s other fumble resulted in a turnover.
Fullback Patrick Hanrahan had a personal foul that pushed a kickoff back 15 yards, and Brandon Henderson dropped a first-down pass in Auburn territory. Henderson''s gaffe was ill-timed as Russell threw an interception on the very next play.
Dan Mullen bemoaned five dropped passes and the lack of rhthym displayed by his team''s offense, which opened the second half with a 12-play, 63-yard scoring drive. Mississippi State found limited consistency outside of its scoring drives.
"It''s not a lot of red flags to me," Mullen said. "To me, offense is about getting into a rhythm, and you are sitting there and you are dropping passes. We take a shot and it would be off somebody''s fingertips. On third down, we had at least two drops that would have been conversions for us.
"You are going to have a tough offensive day if you are not getting into that rhythym."
Marcus Green injures knee
MSU starting tight end Marcus Green injured his knee in the second half and his status for the upcoming game against LSU is unknown.
Mullen said Green "had trouble pushing off" the knee was held out for precautionary reasons.
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