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April 2, 2011Mississippi State began Saturday's scrimmage inside Davis Wade Stadium with a 65-yard touchdown pass from Chris Relf to Chad Bumphis.
The Bulldogs ended the day with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Dylan Favre to Michael Carr. It was that kind of day for the MSU quarterbacks who accounted for six passing touchdowns and ran for two more helping the offense dominate their defensive counterparts.
"I'm really happy with the quarterbacks," Mullen said. "We are a quarterbacks driven offense and those guys were on today. They did a great job of managing and distributing the ball to the receivers. When we're throwing the ball like we did today we're going to have the ability to put up some numbers as evident by the 65-yard touchdown on the first play. That started things off right."
Relf had two touchdown passes - the opening one to Bumphis and a 12-yarder to Brandon Heavens - and also ran for a 1-yard score. Tyler Russell connected on a leaping 5-yard touchdown to Arceto Clark and a 16-yard score to Bumphis while Favre finished with two touchdown throws, one to Carr and the other on an 8-yard slant to Chris Smith. Favre also ran for a 3-yard bootleg score to the right.
"Right now we've got some quarterbacks that this isn't there first time," Mullen said. "This is Chris' third spring with us coming off a full year of being the starter. He's a much more relaxed guy in those situations and there is no panic going on. Tyler has taken a huge step forward in everything that he's doing. You can see that confidence that they have on the field and that's what made us click."
The potent passing threat also opened up things for the running game. Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins each scored on a 21-yard jaunt while Adrian Marcus added a 38-yard touchdown rumble and Sylvester Hemphill scored on a 5-yard dive.
"When you can throw the ball you're going to be able to run," Mullen said. "To me the fact that the quarterbacks were hitting and converting third downs, really managing the playaction game and taking shots when they needed to and checking it down when they needed to really opened up the running game."
Mullen still has some concerns on the offensive line that is currently riddled with injuries and two starters out. But he believes the skill players were able to pick up the guys in the trenches today.
"We're still very young on the o-line and have some inexperience mismatching some groups but I think the skill players kind of made up for that today," Mullen said.
The Bulldogs still have to find a replacement for potential NFL first round draft pick Derek Sherrod at left tackle. Redshirt freshman Blaine Clausell got the first team reps in Saturday's scrimmage while senior James Carmon continues to make the transition from defensive tackle.
"The fact that we have four more spring practices and 29 more practices before our game, I don't let it concern me," Mullen said. "I'm not in too much of a panic right now. I'm not comfortable with it but we haven't hit any panic buttons. We have a lot of time and there are two guys that to me have the ability to do it we've just got to get them ready to do that."
Defensively there were several players that stepped up to make plays. Corvell Harrison-Gay and Shane McCardell each had a pair of sacks while Kaleb Eulls and Johnathan Harris brought down the quarterback once.
Corey Broomfield, Jay Hughes, Ivan Muniz and Dennis Thames all had interceptions on the day.
"I'm disappointed with the defense," Mullen said. "From play one they gave up a big touchdown pass. Nobody stepped up. They let that be the theme of the day and we'll get that fixed."
On special teams Derek DePasquale connected on field goals from 35 and 43-yards but had a 45-yarder blocked by Matthew Wells.
Johnthan Banks also had a big special teams play on punt return. After a high snap over his head, Baker Swedenburg ran down the punt and got it off rugby style creating all the gap that Banks needed to scamper up the left sideline for a 58-yard return for a touchdown.
The Bulldogs will take Sunday and Monday off before returning to the practice fields again on Tuesday afternoon to begin their final stretch of spring practice.