Through two games, Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf has 40 rushes, which leads the team. It’s nine more rushes than lead tailback Vick Ballard has, although Ballard has more net yards: 301 to 157.
Relf had 27 carries against Auburn on Saturday, and that’s a lot for a quarterback, even for one whose running ability is an integral part of the weekly game plan. Relf had a team-high 194 rushes last season, an average of 14.9 per game (13 games). At his current pace, Relf will carry the ball 300 times during the course of the regular season.
Will he continue carrying it 20 times a game? I highly doubt it. Sometimes the game plan calls for a heavy dose of Relf on the ground (he had a career-high 31 against Arkansas last season) and sometimes it doesn’t. The concern, naturally, is that even at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, the heavy running load will take its toll on Relf.
Auburn defensive end Dee Ford told local media earlier this week that while Relf piled up the rushing yards (106), “When we got to him, we tattooed him.”
That’s why I thought, what with Ballard and LaDarius Perkins returning this season, coach Dan Mullen might scale back Relf’s usage in the run game. Apparently not. Mullen simply expects his QB to keep running tough.
“That’s what we expect out of him in order to be successful,” Mullen said Monday. “…We need him to make big plays and not just big plays but a lot of plays.”
It should be noted that Relf had the option Saturday of handing off or pitching on several plays but decided to pull it in and run, so he has some control over the number of carries he takes. Being a conscientious teammate, though, Relf is going to try and make the best decision on that particular play without considering the bigger picture regarding his health.
The question now is, how much will MSU need Relf to run Thursday night against a stout LSU defense? You know those guys will dole out the punishment – if you’ll recall, the Tigers knocked Relf out of last season’s meeting when he took a shot on a 13-yard run. You can bet he’s sore after last week, but I reckon he’ll keep on trucking tomorrow night.