By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Chris Smith lost a couple of fumbles earlier this season, but he more than made up for that Saturday night.
The senior receiver had seven catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns in No. 15 Mississippi State’s 45-3 win over Middle Tennessee State. The catches and TDs were both career highs for Smith.
“Chris is one not to get down on himself,” said quarterback Tyler Russell, who was his teammate at Meridian High School. “Just like in high school, if you have a bad game or you do bad, he always wants to come back to practice the next day and continue to get better and watch film. He’s been doing that.”
Smith said the key to putting his mistakes behind him was simply doing what he’s always done. Just keep grinding.
“That was the key to it,” he said. “I can’t let nothing hold me down like that. The best receivers in the NFL, they fumble the ball, they’ll drop the ball. I’ve just got to stay up, stay humble and keep going for my team.”
Smith is not the flashiest receiver. It’s usually the speedy Chad Bumphis or the sure-handed Arceto Clark making the highlight reel.
But Smith is the one who makes the group tick.
“Chris is our hardest-working guy,” head coach Dan Mullen said. “Chris is the leader of the receivers group. You watch his demeanor, how he attacks it, in his complete game of route-running, catching the ball, blocking. … It’s great to see him have a huge night catching the ball.”
Mullen said that aside from the fumbles, Smith has been playing well all season. After Saturday, he’s now got 26 catches for 293 yards.
Smith started hot, catching three passes for 34 yards on the game’s opening drive. Russell found him in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown to give State a 7-0 lead.
Smith’s second score came during MSU’s 21-point third quarter. Following an MTSU turnover, he hauled in an 11-yard catch to give MSU a 24-3 lead.
How little have his turnovers affected him? Smith said he sensed before the game that it would be a good night for him.
“I came out with a couple of catches the first half, but before the game even started, I felt real good out there,” he said. “I just felt like I was going to be in position to make plays, and I had to make plays. I’m a senior, I expect to make plays, and everybody else expects me to make plays.”