Offense Evens Spring Score With Scrimmage Win

Now, technically there are three dates left on the camp calendar, including Saturday's Maroon-White Game. Realistically? "This was our last big-time scrimmage," reported Tyler Russell following Friday. "Like Coach Mullen said, the spring is over."

Mississippi State marked this unofficial and somewhat early end to 2012 spring training with a combined practice and scrimmage session, and roughly equal parts of each. The scrimmaging was the second and most intense half of the two-hour-plus schedule, and like other such sessions this spring pitted first teams against each other, twos-on-twos, and so on.

Nobody had to run wind sprints after this scrimmage, for a change. Yet there was a winning side, at least according Russell. "We beat the defense today," the quarterback said, explaining the final score was based not just on touchdowns—and there were several—as drives. Or, lack thereof. "If the offense gets two first downs that's points for the offense, if we go three-and-out that's points for the defense."

Possibly Coach Dan Mullen was willing to let the defense off easy after their purported loss because an offensive win evened up the spring score, according to Russell. "If you go back and look at it, it's 2 to 2 now. The defense won twice, we won twice, so for a spring I'm pretty happy with that. Nobody lost and that just shows you we have a good combination of defensive and offensive play."

There was an entertaining mix of events and plays by both sides of the ball once scrimmaging began around 5:30. The first series by the #1 offense ought to have continued as on 3rd-and-7 TE Malcolm Johnson got behind an apparently—judging by who the head coach fussed at—cornerback, and only a stumble by the receiver prevented a touchdown of 40 yards.

The second offense did muster a successful opening drive as QB Dak Prescott under pressure made a third-down flip to RB Nick Griffin to move the chains. WR Jameon Lewis came down with a tough catch while getting smacked by S Kendrick Market in the process. WR Robert Johnson hauled in a corner route to set up goal-line which Griffin completed on a third-down bounce around the left end.

Pride stung, the first offense took one play to match that. Russell threw to WR Chad Bumphis on the sideline, with the catch made as S Jay Hughes overplayed the ball. Bumphis out-ran supporting S Dee Arrington for a 60-yard score. The next 1s on 1s series was also a win for the offense. Russell made two very slick play-fakes to RB LaDarius Perkins to freeze coverage and hook up first with TE Johnson for a big gainer and then TE Brandon Hill for a touchdown.

Russell directed another scoring series sustained when RB Derrick Milton converted 4th-and-short. Two sacks lost about 15 yards yet on 3rd-and-very-long Bumphis got way behind everyone for the easy end zone catch. Too easy, because Mullen made the offense set up on the five for an and-goal situation. The defense used the gift to hold on fourth down as Bumphis couldn't hang on to a throw at the goal line with LB Benardrick McKinney stripping the ball.

Lewis lost coverage as well on the next series for a big grab inside the red zone, and WR Joe Morrow hauled in a throw around the five-yard line. This time the #1s ran it in. Perkins, specifically, on a quick-toss sweep to the left pylon.

Mullen opted to give the second offense a stretch of five-straight series, only one of which produced points. Prescott got away with one close call as LB Matthew Wells couldn't pick his throw for WR Brandon Heavens. He wasn't so lucky when a tipped throw was caught by CB Jamerson Love. Prescott missed an easy touchdown in red zone as he threw behind TE Hill, but made up for it on fourth down as Morrow out-ran CB Taveze Calhoun crossing the end zone.

In-between the third teams had some turns at each other. QB Sam Cowart threw a couple of interceptions, one by walk-on Rishun McCaleb.

The day concluded with two-minute offense, which saw the first unit fail on eight plays with a lone first down to show for it. Here the #2 offense got some pride back with a seven-play scoring drive. Prescott found WR Johnson on the sideline for first down just outside the goal line, then Milton ran it in.

All in all the offense came away pleased with the afternoon's results. Well, most of them did. Russell took the stance that the outcome should have been decided on more than just judged points. "Our defense is pretty good," he acknowledged, but…

"I'm kind of disappointed when we got down there we weren't able to score. But I kind of got on my guys, when we get that opportunity we've got to score."

As far as positioning and depth charts, for this session Damien Robinson worked at left tackle while veteran LT Blaine Clausell was #1 over at the right end of the line. They took care of all first-team snaps, while Joey Trapp and Charles Siddoway were left and right on the second team. Ben Beckwith was first RG and Justin Malone the #2.

The base defensive front remains tackles Josh Boyd and Curtis Virges. But as Thursday went on three more got to take turns on the first unit, whether it was P.J. Jones, Dwayne Cherrington, or Quay Evans. DE Kaleb Eulls worked at both end and tackle, and when he moved inside juco Denico Autry took over opposite Shane McCardell.

For some of the pass-rush sets Eulls lined up over the ball with Autry and McCardell the rushers at ends. In special goal-line work big bodies Virges and Cherrington took the two inside slots with DT Devin Jones at an end of the five-man front. Preston Smith and John Harris were the second-team ends.

In the secondary Louis Watson and Jay Hughes began as the first-team safeties, with Dee Arrington and Market on the second squad for drills. In scrimmaging there was some rotation of these four, as Arrington has been with the #1s a lot this camp. With a solid three-man rotation already established at cornerbacks among Johnthan Banks, Corey Broomfield, and Darius Slay, this was a good day to give younger cover-men like Calhoun and Love more snaps with the second unit.

Friday's practice, closed to media and public alike, will consist largely of spring game planning. Then again Russell already has a good idea what the orders are for Saturday. "You know, I think you just go out there and have fun," he said.

"You have fun at the spring game and tomorrow just go through a little stuff. But the spring game you go out there and show the fans a little bit of what we've been doing and working hard on. So I don't think it will be any problem."

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