By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – It’s all football, all the time for Chris Relf.
The quarterback’s increasing devotion to his game has been apparent throughout Mississippi State’s spring drills, and while it was only a scrimmage, Relf was razor sharp during Saturday’s work at Scott Field.
He completed around 80 percent of his passes and led four touchdown drives in seven possessions, hitting big third-down throws and excelling in the two-minute drill near the end of the two-hour scrimmage, which served as a prelude to the Maroon-White spring game set for April 9.
Relf began the day with a 65-yard touchdown strike to Chad Bumphis on the very first play, and he capped it by driving the first-team offense 70 yards in nine plays, hooking up with Brandon Heavens for a 12-yard score.
Asked where he is compared to this time last spring, Relf said, “Basically night and day, thinking about football all the time.” All the time? “Yep, all the time.”
His coaches and teammates have noticed a difference, and it’s a good sign for an offense that looked as crisp Saturday as it ever has under coach Dan Mullen. Relf had a fine 2010, throwing for 1,789 yards and 13 touchdowns as MSU went 9-4 and won the Gator Bowl, but he’s not been content with that.
The fifth-year senior has worked to continue his development, which took him from lost freshman to breakout player.
“It’s aging, it’s just aging up and growing,” senior offensive lineman Quentin Saulsberry said. “He always talks about things back at home and how he’s got to step up. So I think he takes everything in his personal life, and he puts it into football.”
Relf is partly motivated by past failures, in particular the Auburn game last season. MSU was driving late but couldn’t finish it in a 17-14 loss in Week 2.
Relf said he’s quite comfortable in the two-minute offense, and that was evident Saturday: In that drill, he completed 7 of 8 passes for 65 yards, the lone incompletion being a spike to stop the clock.
“This is Chris’ third spring with us, coming off a full year of being a starter, so it’s a much more relaxed guy in those situations,” Mullen said. “There is no panic (in) him. And that helps.”
Backup quarterbacks Tyler Russell and Dylan Favre also played well, and the running game chugged along with ruthless efficiency. So the offense dominated the scrimmage, quite a departure from recent practices, when the defense usually got to head inside while the offensive players stayed out for extra work or running.
Of the 11 touchdowns scored, six were on the ground, including a 23-yard run by LaDarius Perkins and a 21-yard run by Vick Ballard. Relf and Russell threw an interception each, but the QBs felt little pressure, and there wasn’t much reason for Mullen to praise the defense.
“I’m disappointed with the defense,” he said. “From play one, to give up a big touchdown pass, and nobody stepped up. They kind of let that be the theme of the day, and we’ll get that fixed.”
Defensive lineman Devin Jones, who’s been working at both tackle and end, sat out with a broken hand. He had surgery on Friday and is expected to return Tuesday, which is MSU’s next scheduled practice.
Linebacker Cam Lawrence was also out with a strained quad muscle but should be back soon as well.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571