By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Dan Mullen said he wanted the fans to make their own judgments on Mississippi State’s quarterback race.
As 34,127 looked on at Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday, fourth-year junior Chris Relf left little room for judgment. In the annual Maroon-White spring game, Relf out-played his competition, redshirt freshman Tyler Russell, in leading the Maroon to a 26-13 victory.
The final tally is not as relevant as the fact that Relf looked like the more experienced quarterback he is, and that he can be more than just a running back calling signals.
Relf completed 13 of 24 passes for 184 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Russell was 12 of 27 for 125 yards, two picks and no TDs.
“I think what you saw today is a guy that’s been in a game situation in front of a big crowd, playing in this type of atmosphere before, and a guy that hadn’t,” Mullen said. “I think that’s the biggest difference I saw today between the two.”
Relf hit Brandon Heavens for a 20-yard score in the first quarter, and then he found tight end Marcus Green from 15 yards in the third for a 26-6 Maroon lead.
Relf rushed for 500 yards last season while completing 53.7 percent of his throws. He dismisses the label of “running quarterback,” and he has shown improvement as a passer this spring.
“Yeah, I think some people give me that label,” Relf said. “I can’t worry about people. It’s what you do” that matters.
Russell’s day began ominously when his first pass of the game was intercepted by Damein Anderson. The other pick was made by freshman Jonathan Phillips of Starkville, and Russell was sacked three times, twice by end Sean Ferguson.
“It was a little difficult for me to get in a rhythm,” Russell said. “I think I could’ve done a better job of putting my team in better situations at times, just making some better ball throws, and stuff like that.”
The White didn’t have much of a running game, either, totaling just 25 yards on 18 carries. The Maroon gained 172 on 41 carries, with junior college transfer Vick Ballard rushing 14 times for 73 yards and a touchdown.
The Maroon out-gained the White in total yardage, 356-182.
Defensively, Mullen decided to keep it simple. In the previous week’s scrimmage, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz threw a bunch of different sets and blitzes at the offense.
“He just wanted to keep it simple so we all know what to do,” said linebacker K.J. Wright.
Ferguson led the Maroon with five tackles. Linebacker Jamie Jones had eight stops for the White.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.