Mississippi State's offense has been described by coach Dan Mullen as "sloppy" more than once this spring, but that unit operated quite smoothly in this morning's biggest scrimmage of the spring at Scott Field.
QBs Chris Relf and Tyler Russell engineered several productive drives, especially toward the end, making big throws and converting on third down more often than not. I didn't keep stats, but looking at the numbers from those who did keep up, it confirms what my eyes told me – both players completed a high percentage of their passes.
"We're a quarterback-driven offense," Mullen said. "Those guys were on today, did a great job managing, distributing the ball to the receivers. When we're throwing the ball like like we did today, we're going to have the ability to put up some numbers."
The most impressive drive came near the end, when Relf directed the two-minute offense to a touchdown, covering 70 yards in nine plays and scoring on a 12-yard pass to Brandon Heavens with 12 seconds to spare.
In seven possessions, Relf and the first-team offense scored four touchdowns (two passing, two running), stalled twice, and was intercepted by Corey Broomfield in the end zone. Russell also had seven possessions, leading the Bulldogs' second unit to three TDs and a field goal. The other possessions: a blocked field goal, a stall, and an interception by Dennis Thames.
Third-stringer Dylan Favre was effective, too, leading four touchdown marches in six possessions.
"Right now there are some quarterbacks, this isn't their first time through it – 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," said Mullen. "There is no panic on him. And that helps. And you've seen Tyler, Tyler's taken a huge step forward in everything he's doing. You just see that confidence they have on the field, and that's what made us click."
The tone was set on the scrimmage's very first play, when Relf found Chad Bumphis down the middle for a 65-yard touchdown strike. MSU's offense had a good balance, though: Of 11 touchdowns scored, six came on the ground, each by a different player.
"When you can throw the ball, you're going to be able to run it," Mullen said. "And to me the fact that the quarterbacks were hitting, the fact that they were converting third downs, really managing the play-action game, taking shots when they needed to, checking down when they needed to – really to me, that's what opened up the running game today."
As pleased as he was with the offense – and the general thought at Scott Field was that it's never looked better under Mullen – there was disappointment in the defensive effort.
"The one defense did not get one three-and-out all day. That to me, even though there were some stops, we've got to get off the field and change momentum."
For more detail about the scoring, click here.
• Defensive lineman Devin Jones sat out after having surgery on a broken hand on Friday. He's expected to return Tuesday, which is MSU's next practice.
Also, first-team linebacker Cam Lawrence was held out today due to a strained quad muscle. He could be back Tuesday as well.
• I've got some video of Mullen talking about the scrimmage. Click here to watch.