By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s passing game has come a long way under fourth-year coach Dan Mullen. The record books are starting to bear that out.
Quarterback Tyler Russell, a fourth-year junior, set three single-season MSU records in Saturday’s 45-14 win over Arkansas: passing yards (2,523), completions (201) and 200-yard passing games (seven).
Russell completed 19 of 32 passes for 274 yards and four touchdowns, two each to Chad Bumphis and LaDarius Perkins. He surpassed Dave Marler’s passing yardage mark of 2,422 on a 24-yard completion to Arceto Clark in the third quarter.
As a team, MSU has set a new record for passing yardage with 2,682. The previous record is 2,637, set in 1978.
“There’s a lot of history at Mississippi State,” Russell said. “For our offense to break records like that, it just lets you know we are going in the right direction.”
MSU’s quarterbacking history is actually not that illustrious. Russell already owns the single-season touchdown pass mark, with his 21 TDs five ahead of the previous record.
There are other season records well within his reach, including completions and total offense. Then there are the career records, many of which Russell will be chasing next season.
He’s second in career TD passes with 34, just four behind Derrick Taite’s 38. Russell is currently the all-time leader in pass efficiency.
Men of respect
Because of Russell, MSU is finally a team that demands respect in the passing game. In Mullen’s first year, State averaged a paltry 144.3 passing yards per game.
This season, it’s averaging 243.8 yards. MSU had 302 yards passing against Arkansas.
“A lot of guys, this is their fourth year in the offense, so we’re pretty well-versed in everything,” Russell said.
Russell has certainly had good help, starting with Bumphis, a senior who has a school record 22 career touchdown receptions. His two touchdowns Saturday gave him 10 for the season, also a record.
Bumphis is second all-time in catches with 150, a dozen behind David Smith.
Mullen said he got several text messages over the summer from Bumphis, asking, “How do I get better?” The Tupelo product, who had a sub-par junior season, is having a career year, with 49 catches for 758 yards.
“Everybody as you go into your career wants to get better,” Bumphis said, “but I felt like I was nowhere near where I could’ve been, and I just wanted to see small things to help me and make me better.”