Wake Forest ready for physical State squad

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

NASHVILLE – Josh Bush is actually looking forward to taking Chris Relf head on.
“It’s always good to showcase a little physicality,” said Bush, Wake Forest’s starting free safety.
When the Demon Deacons face Mississippi State in today’s Music City Bowl, Bush will have his chance to tackle the Bulldogs’ 240-pound quarterback, who’s rushed for 311 yards this season.
Wake Forest (6-6) is not a team that relies on strength as much as does MSU (6-6), especially on defense. The Deacs are small but depend on a 3-4 alignment and speed to make up for it.
Defensive line coach Ray McCartney called MSU “the most physical football we have seen all year” and had high praise for State’s offensive line.
“They’re a really aggressive bunch. I don’t think it matters what scheme they go against,” McCartney said.
MSU right tackle Addison Lawrence said this week that “brute force” won’t get the job done against Wake Forest, and it might not be as simple as the Bulldogs being bigger and stronger than the Deacs.
A big key for State’s offensive linemen will be not playing chase with the Wake Forest defense.
“As critical as breathing,” offensive line coach John Hevesy said. “You can’t be fooled. You can’t not see things.”
Finishing strong
No matter how the regular season has gone for MSU, coach Dan Mullen has managed to create momentum heading into the offseason.
Two years ago, the Bulldogs upset rival Ole Miss to finish 5-7, and that win sparked a huge fan reaction in the form of record ticket sales. Then there was last season, when State went 9-4 and hammered Michigan in the Gator Bowl.
This season hasn’t gone quite as planned, and a loss today would drop MSU below .500 on the season.
“The importance of that momentum going into the offseason of coming off a win leaves a good taste in your mouth for the next nine months,” Mullen said. “It’s a positive reinforcement for your kids for the next nine months.”
QB update
Little has changed about MSU’s quarterback situation. Relf is still the starter today while Tyler Russell continues nursing his sprained left MCL.
“Tyler said he felt good today,” Mullen said Thursday, “so we’ll see how he goes tomorrow, whether we rotate him or just try to stick with Chris the whole game.”
Relf has started eight games this season, Russell the other four.
brad.locke@journalinc.com

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