Bulldog Post-Game Notebook

BIRMINGHAM -- Quarterback wasn't the only position MSU made an intermission change. For the decisive second half James Carmon took over at left tackle, having sat the first with a still-cranky knee. Well, not exactly sat. "Coach just kept saying be ready. I said Coach I'm ready, I can't keep watching no more, I've got to go play out there. He said go in the locker room and warm up and be ready."

The revised Mississippi State offense responded with just under 300 of their yards and all 21 of their points. And while QB Tyler Russell did take a loss once, both passer-protection and run-blocking showed significant improvements in the concluding two quarters. "I think that helped out a lot," said sub-QB Tyler Russell.

Carmon, who'd already missed ten quarters and two whole games with a knee injury at Auburn, played all the Georgia game at right guard. This, after just six quarters as the starting tackle…and that after all 2010 spent on defense. Then when the starting lineup was set prior to the morning kickoff he was not on it again.

"He didn't think he could go this week, his knee was sore," Coach Dan Mullen said. "He didn't practice much and didn't practice very well when he was in there. But we weren't great up front so we said can you go and he said yeah. And we went with him."

"I didn't have a good week at practice," agreed Carmon. "But Coach told me to be ready just in case. When that time came he told me you got to go, you go to go. So I went in for my team to do what I had to do."

And did so well, too. At least by Carmon's own unofficial evaluation. "I played good," he began, then grinned. "Yeah, I know I played good!" So did the revamped line in that second half, whether because it had guys at more normal positions (redshirt Dillon Day was back at center) or a quarterback making plays before the real heat arrived.

Either way, "I was comfortable," said Carmon of getting back at tackle. "Wherever they put me I'm going to be comfortable. I've got to be poised."

STAYING WITH IT: The excitement provided by Russell in his second-half rally does not necessarily signal a change to quarterback plans, all agreed. In fact, "Coach Mullen says I'm still going to be starting quarterback," reported starter Chris Relf afterwards. "It's just a matter of me going out there and working hard, and a matter of them believing in me to throw the ball. That's how I see it."

"I believe Chris could have gone back in there after halftime and picked it back up," Russell said.

What the quarterback competition looks like this week will have to be related strictly second-hand, as Mullen knows the questions are forthcoming. "We'll direct them at me!" he said, smiling but not joking. "I'll make the rule right now, quarterbacks aren't available this week, I'm available. You can talk to me. That will limit the talk!"

NOTCH ANOTHER ONE: CB Johnthan Banks moved another notch up the interception list as he picked off a fourth-quarter Blazer pass. It was his 11th in three seasons and ties the junior for fourth on the career list. Banks has also picked off a ball in four of the last five games.

"It's great. People are throwing the ball at me, pretty much throwing it to me. So I just have to make plays and catch it. I've been in good position to make the plays at the right times and I'm just trying to help this defense win."

Yet Banks was still frustrated by the day because another ball had gotten away, in the first half when he got fooled by UAB's play selection. "I knew they were going to throw post-vertical, but they snuck a wheel-route out of the backfield. I was over the top and took my off the ball and wasn't nothing but green grass out there." Actually artificial turf and not very good plastic either, but the point was correct. "I came back and did what I had to do."

As in get that big pick that effectively sealed the win after the offense converted it into the third touchdown. This time, Banks was ready. "I kind of knew because we were showing stuff but not doing it. I kind of knew he was going to throw it over there and just had to get in position to make the play."

Along with LB Brandon Wilson's forced fumble and recovery in the third quarter, the day's biggest defensive play, the Bulldogs again came out ahead in the turnover tally. Because State did not fumble or throw a pick all afternoon.

BACK IN STRIDE: It's been a rough three weeks for TB Vick Ballard. After opening his senior season with 301 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the first two games, Ballard has managed just 129 yards and a single score since. Ballard didn't reach the end zone today but he got back over the century with 101 yards. It was his eighth 100-yard output at State.

And after rushing just eight times at Georgia, he touched it 19 times this day. "I never know what the gameplan is. Whenever I get the ball I just make the most of it." A 5.3-yard average gain was making good ground for sure. Of course his alternate, LaDarius Perkins, also averaged 5.4 yards on his eight touches.

"It was pretty good, Perk did real good too." At least Ballard got more involved in the air game with two catches and 24 yards, his best output since the Auburn trip again. "I was open a couple of times and Coach Koenning called good calls. It was what we had."

A BIG BUMP: WR Chad Bumphis could sympathize with his tailback teammate. The junior h-back had not caught more than two passes any game this season, and his only touchdown so far was on his single grab at Memphis.

So his 57-yard grab and go in the fourth quarter was particularly satisfying, especially as Bumphis' other three catches netted just nine yards. As QB Tyler Russell said in the game story, State spent all day trying to set just that play up with both quarterbacks. It finally broke as booked on the first play of the fourth quarter.

"The one to Bump was pretty wide-open, we looked it and the safety gave us what we wanted. He came down and I pump-faked him and I had the whole field to throw to Bump open. And he ran a good route." A route Russell said he and Bumphis, and for that matter all varsity passers and catchers, had worked on every summer day possible.

What pleased Bumphis even more was how he got most of the ground after the grab, beating three desperate defenders to the end zone even when a couple had angles on him. "We always look at ‘yac' pays on Sunday," Bumphis said. "And Coach Mullen said that's something we needed to do, get the ball to our playmakers and make people miss. And that's what we did."

*Senior TE Marcus Green's 18-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was his first scoring pass since the 2009 Egg Bowl. Green had just five receptions in the first four games, and only three as a junior before ending the season in week-two with a knee injury.

*LB Brandon Wilson got a team-best nine tackles, giving him 50 for the season so far. That ties him now with fellow LB Cameron Lawrence who was credited with five stops today. Wilson also had his first fumble forced and recovered as a Bulldog.

*DT Fletcher Cox's seven tackles (five primary, two assists) caught his coach's eye. "You felt his presence out there which is hard to do sometimes as a defensive tackle," Mullen said. "He had seven tackles, that's a big game for a defensive tackle. And we need him to play at that level as we move forward."

*Redshirt freshman WR Robert Johnson made his first college start. He celebrated it by getting the ball on State's first offensive snap, and end-around good for seven yards.

*Redshirt freshman TB Nick Griffin made his long-delayed debut, with four carries on State's last series and 25 yards of gains. Griffin was coming off a spring knee injury and while he could have played the last two weeks Mullen held him out until today. Not that it was supposed to take four quarters, though.

"I was glad to see Nick got a couple of carries," Mullen said. "I wanted him to get a carry in the first half no matter what, but he didn't get some to the end. But that's his first live contact and he looked pretty good out there. So just to get his confidence going a little bit and get some depth at the position."

*WR Arceto Clark extended his games-receiving streak to 13, and did so with four catches. He also had four last week at Georgia.

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