That was indeed the reason Coach Dan Mullen pulled a uniform switch Tuesday. Mississippi State will be at Houston this weekend, and playing an 7:00 game in Robertson Stadium. So, much as Berry said, "I want to make sure our quarterbacks throw to the guys in white jerseys on Saturday. So we might as well practice on Tuesday if we're going to do it on Saturday!"
The only other time this year State has been on the road, and playing at night, was three weeks ago at LSU. That night Bulldog quarterbacks didn't throw to the right color jerseys often enough, though for that SEC contest State also wore black shirts. Safe to say Mullen has tipped off the uniform of choice for this road game.
And, that he definitely intends there be no repetition of the five-interception evening at Baton Rouge regardless of jersey hue. A major practice emphasis this week is building on the more efficient passing starter Chris Relf has displayed in home-field wins since then. Relf was 9-of-14 for 148 yards against Georgia; and 11-of-15 for a career best 209 yards against Alcorn State. Each game produced two touchdown passes without a single pickoff.
Mullen is pleased how the junior is finding his targets and delivering the ball. Certainly Relf and alternate Tyler Russell both avoided the sort of errors committed at LSU. "If we had thrown the ball that way in our own stadium the miscues would have looked the same," Mullen said. More than that, the coach likes Relf's increasing self-assurance as a team leader.
"He's getting some confidence, and when you're playing confidently within this system it allows you to be a little bit better leader. He can a have a little more hop in his step and that's what you're seeing out of him."
Last week State approached Alcorn with a first quarter script that had Relf and Russell taking consecutive series; Relf the fifth, and afterwards letting circumstances dictate the rotation. For now Mullen is not setting anything down so sharply. "We'll see as the week goes on. We don't usually determine that until after practice and look through everything. Playing quarterback is about managing the offense and making good decisions. If you make good decisions good things will happen. If we can do that we'll take care of the football and complete a lot of passes."
To the proper jersey color, that is.
INJURY UPDATE: Defensive end Nick Bell is still at Vanderbilt Medical Center recovering from last week's emergency surgery to remove what State officials call a ‘mass' on his brain. "I talked to him today," Mullen reported. Bell's exact medical outlook has not been stated officially yet. "They'll probably know at the end of the week."
Mullen did say tight end Brandon Henderson was practicing as usual Tuesday. "He made a couple of nice catches out there, it's good to have him back. I think he feels more confident on his leg running around." And defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is also back at work per the coach. "He went full-go today, did some nice things."
Otherwise, "It was a regular Tuesday practice. A good attitude by our guys, we worked hard. It was a good, up tempo practice." Mullen didn't have as kind a comment for the post-practice Gatorade, the green variety this time, calling it ‘toxic'.