By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Blaine Clausell was already a bundle of nerves, and then on the first play of his college career, here comes a football floating right toward him.
So he did what any offensive lineman would do: He caught the ball and ran.
“It’s like every lineman’s dream to get the ball, so I guess I got mine on my first play,” Clausell said during Mississippi State’s press conference on Monday.
Quarterback Chris Relf was trying to throw back across the field to tailback Vick Ballard but only got it as far as Clausell, who’d just entered the game in the second quarter when starting left tackle James Carmon got hurt.
After the unexpected reception – which drew a flag but went down as a catch for zero yards, because Auburn declined the penalty – Clausell settled in and played well.
Relf felt occasional pressure from that side, but Clausell held his own. On his second play of the game, a third-and-11, Clausell pass protected well as Relf completed a 20-yard strike.
“Honestly, I thought that I would be a lot worse than I really was,” Clausell said. “Coming out of high school and not ever playing a down of (college) football, getting put in that situation against the defending national champs, it was kind of nerve-wracking. But you’ve just got to go out there and play with confidence.”
Confidence is something the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Clausell has been building since getting a chance to vie for the starting job. He’ll need it Thursday when No. 3 LSU visits for the No. 25 Bulldogs’ home opener.
Carmon, who hurt his left knee and was on crutches in the second half, is listed as day-to-day by coach Dan Mullen. He also said center Quentin Saulsberry (sprained knee) will be available Thursday, but redshirt freshman Dillon Day got some snaps Saturday in relief and will be prepared to play.
“Coach, he’s pretty smart,” right guard Tobias Smith said, “he practices us together, he mixes up lines and all that, so when they came in, it wasn’t really a change in what was going on.”