STARKVILLE – Hard to believe, but in high school, Chris Relf wasn’t much of a running quarterback.
“I passed in high school; that’s mostly what I did,” he said.
The book on Relf since leaving Carver High School in Montgomery, Ala. – where he passed for more than 1,500 yards as a junior – was that he was a run-first guy and a liability in the passing game.
Well, he’s certainly done the running thing well. He gained a career-high 131 yards on the ground in Saturday’s 41-27 MSU win over Ole Miss, giving him 500 on the season, second on the team to only tailback Anthony Dixon.
On his first series, in the second quarter, Relf carried it four times for 57 yards on an 81-yard scoring drive that gave State a 10-6 lead.
Relf played almost the entire second half and helped MSU wear down the Rebels, but he showed he can indeed chuck the ball around. He had touchdown passes of 2 yards, to Marcus Green, and 34 yards, to Chad Bumphis.
For the game, Relf was 3 of 5 for 43 yards.
On the pass to Bumphis, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Relf was facing a fourth-and-10 and had to scramble away from pressure. He hit Bumphis around the 10-yard line, and the true freshman from Tupelo did the rest to give MSU a 27-13 lead with 38 seconds left in the third quarter.
“What people don’t understand is, he can throw the ball,” Bumphis said. “Whenever they see him in, they automatically think run – which the O-line did a great job; there were holes all night – but he was just able to do so much different stuff.”
Relf said he was actually looking for O’Neal Wilder on the play, and Bumphis “got in the way.” But it worked, just like everything else Relf did.
The Rebels were powerless to stop him, as he averaged 8.7 yards per carry and had a pair of big third-down runs on the drive that ended in the TD pass to Green and gave the Bulldogs a 20-13 lead.
“They were biting on the dive a lot,” Relf said. “The defensive end was coming down, I was pulling it and just running it.”
Relf, who’s platooned with senior Tyson Lee most of the season, knew he’d play Saturday, he just wasn’t sure how much. He took every snap of the second half against Arkansas the previous week, and coach Dan Mullen said he took a play-it-by-ear approach with his QBs.
‘He got it rolling’
“We’re going back and forth there, and Chris kind of got it rolling. And once he got it rolling and got a little feel for what was going on, we were able to run the football,” Mullen said. “They had 11 guys on the line of scrimmage, and we’re still able to run the football.
“When Chris got into that flow, we just decided to stick with him right there and keep trying to grind it out.”
Lee, who Mullen let take the final snap of the game, has made the platoon system a harmonious one and sounded like a proud father after the game.
“He’s put in the work from Day 1, and it was obvious today in the way he played,” Lee said. “I’m so proud of him, so proud of what he did for us.”
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal