September 20, 2010 10:45:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State''s football team had several areas contribute to its 29-7 loss to LSU, but turnovers were the repeated nails in the coffin Saturday.
The fact the Bulldogs held LSU to five field goals and actually outgained the Tigers 268-264 only shines a greater light on the disappointing offensive performance in Baton Rouge.
Starting quarterback Chris Relf threw two interceptions before leaving the game after a knock to the head from LSU safety Derek Helton. Relf didn''t return to the game, and backup Tyler Russell appeared poised to lead the team to a comeback win after directing the Bulldogs on its only score of the game, which cut LSU''s lead to 12-7.
Then, things turned south as defensive pressure increased, forcing Russell into three interceptions.
For the second straight year, MSU ended its loss to LSU with a minus four turnover ratio.
"Turnovers are the huge concern," Mullen said during his teleconference Sunday. "You''re not going to win turning the ball over, starting at the plus 48 and we''re at minus 18. It doesn''t matter who you''re playing, if you''re fighting that uphill battle."
Relf, who finished 5 of 8 for 35 yards and two picks, took what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit from Helton and needed to be helped off the field.
Mullen said Relf was cleared to return to the game, but Russell''s effectiveness on the team''s first drive prompted the coach to leave the redshirt freshman in the game.
"We wanted to see what Tyler would do the rest of the way," Mullen said. "Chris was out for two series and Tyler led us on that drive. I wanted to leave Tyler in the game to get that experience."
In hindsight, Mullen said he''s not sure how much Russell would have played if Relf didn''t get hurt. He said Saturday''s loss will not affect Relf''s status as starter, though Russell will continue to play.
Tight ends to be evaluated this week
Mississippi State traveled to Baton Rouge without its top tight end and exited Saturday''s loss to LSU with fitness concerns over its most experienced player at the position.
Marcus Green''s knee injury that he suffered against Auburn lingered into game-week before facing LSU, as swelling remained and forced him to miss the trip.
Mullen revealed senior backup Brandon Henderson had sustained an injury at LSU, though he didn''t specify the nature of the injury.
"Gonna see on Henderson," Mullen said, "He''s the only one I want to look into. We''ll find out more today."
Green was to be re-evaluated Sunday, and the team hopes to have him running by Tuesday to make a decision on his status for the Bulldogs'' next match against Georgia.
Other players to suffer knocks against LSU were defensive end Pernell McPhee and safety Zach Smith, both of whom continued to play in the game and will practice this week.
1. Hill, Gholar fuel Falcons' flight HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. EMCC offense having fun COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Mullen wants MSU to clean things up, get healthy COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Big region games on deck for locals LOCAL COLUMNS
5. Mullen balances calling plays, running team COLLEGE SPORTS