BATON ROUGE, La. – Can’t you just imagine what JaMarcus Russell’s throwing arm must be saying today?
“Look, dude,” says arm. “I’m tired. You wore me out yesterday. Show me some love. Please, and I mean please, don’t use me today.”
“Look, arm,” Russell said. “I gave you most of the second half off. Show a little appreciation. This is college football. Toughen up.”
OK. Those may not be the exact words. But I bet they’re pretty darn close.
In just a little more than two quarters of action against Mississippi State in a 48-17 thumping on Saturday, Russell looked better than any player ESPN is hyping for the Heisman Trophy.
He did little wrong, if anything, en route to a career day with 330 yards and three touchdown tosses.
Well, for those sticklers out there, he did throw two incomplete passes.
But the 18 he did complete? They were lethal.
Before the Bulldogs were buried at Death Valley, Russell did his part by digging the grave when he guided the ninth-ranked Tigers on five scoring drives to start the game. All touchdowns.
Three of the scores were the result of his arm. The other two were provided by running back Charles Scott.
“See,” Russell says to his arm. “You didn’t do everything.”
No. But his arm was pretty close.
Not bad, considering it was just a couple of years ago the Purple & Gold fans had little faith in his abilities after a few poor performances.
Now, though, he could probably run for governor and win in a landslide.
But why worry with politics? Barring a career-ending injury, this kid is bound for the NFL.
Saturday, he played as though he was already a pro.
He showed poise. He was precise in his throwing. And he was in control.
And some might even say remarkable.
Several times when it looked as if he should throw the ball away rather than risk a turnover, he’d split defenders and perfectly put the ball right into the hands of his receivers.
“He was throwing the ball really hard,” defensive back Derek Pegues said.
And definitely on target.
In one stretch, he threw 14 completions in a row.
But to understand just had valuable he was to his team, look at what happened in the third quarter.
After the lovely lightning delay early in the frame, his impressive day looked to be over when backup Matt Flynn entered the game.
But after Flynn threw an interception that was returned 23 yards for a touchdown by Derek Pegues on the drive’s second play, LSU coach Les Miles immediately called for Russell’s return.
The last thing Miles wanted was for MSU to find any type of momentum.
The move worked, as Russell drove the Tigers 80 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown and 42-10 advantage.
“I just kept my head in the game and stayed focused on the task we had,” he said. “We kept clicking and made sure the rain delay didn’t take us out of the game.”
After that scoring drive, Russell did return to the bench. And this time, for good.
It was a well-deserved break. And who knows, maybe he’ll give his arm one of those little breaks today as well.
Gregg Ellis (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal.