Bumphis Looks For Big Finish In Gator Bowl

There's a sizable list of Bulldog veterans looking forward to playing a second time on EverBank Field. Of course Chad Bumphis' case is different from his remaining 2010 teammates. "I'm excited because I missed it," the senior wideout points out.

Not the Gator Bowl trip; Bumphis was there in Jacksonville with the rest of the '10 team. He just couldn't play on that New Years Day with an injury that kept him out of the 52-14 rout of Michigan. Not that Bumphis didn't make an effort, so to speak.

"I was trying to bribe the trainers and Justin Gremillion to let me play," he joked, as no inducements would have fully secured the shoulder busted making a key catch in Mississippi State's Egg Bowl victory at Oxford. Or could it? "I think I could have played," Bumphis can (safely) claim now. Instead he settled for watching the game itself, after spending his bowl-site week rehabbing.

"I do remember they were practicing and Coach Balis had me running the bleachers. So I still got my work in, I just didn't do any football drills. But it was a great trip, I enjoyed it." Yes, he even enjoyed observing everyone else's on-field fun, especially his receiver compadres with Chris Relf putting on a passing show. Three wideouts caught touchdowns including first-ever scores for Ricco Sanders and Michael Carr. It should have aggravated Bumphis that much more seeing such receiving, knowing what he might have done in their places on those same plays.

"It's alright, we won," he shrugged, adding there was "no point" him trying to barter his way onto the field for the final minutes of the blowout just to get on the stat sheet. "It was big that everybody got to play and everybody did good out there."

It is also easier for Bumphis to be philosophical in retrospect. He is preparing to play this time, this trip, and against another Big Ten team. A different one, and Northwestern looks to have a much more effective defensive squad than the overmatched Wolverines of 2010. Still this is Bumphis' last go-round in a Bulldog uniform and he naturally wants a farewell to remember.

His senior season already is one to be recalled. Bumphis has gone out with a bang, recording almost as many yards this one fall than any two of his previous seasons combined. He will go to Jacksonville with 940 yards on 55 receptions. The last time a Bulldog wideout caught this many balls in a regular schedule was Justin Jenkins in 2003, and he only had 880 yards.

To top the yardage means going all the way back to 1978 when Mardye McDole led the SEC with 1,035. It will take a monster effort to surpass that standard of course, and the first benchmark Bumphis would aim at anyway is 1,000 yards.

"If we have a big game, I think I can," he said. Note the ‘we' because no matter how impressive this one Dog's numbers are the passes aren't aimed at him always. Or even first. Quarterback Tyler Russell has done a masterful job spreading the receiving-wealth all fall as 45 catches for Chris Smith and 33 more for Arceto Clark show. Not to mention 19 more to tight end Marcus Green. This oughtn't be surprising since the entire quartet are seniors and know how to play-off their record-setting passer.

Touchdowns, now? This is where Russell could be accused of some favoritism. Bumphis exploded as a senior for 10 scores, a State season record. In the process he muted, make that mooted, questions about his SEC-game intensity raised by having just two touchdowns against league defenses in 2009-10-11. This year Bumphis rose to the conference-occasion with eight of those ten TDs in SEC competition.

He has also blown away the career touchdowns record with 22 and has another game to extend his standard. For that matter the career yardage record is only—only—108 away…

All fun stuff for speculation. But Bumphis is nothing but realistic as an old Dog in this offense ought be. "It just depends on the gameplan. If the plan is to run the ball then we'll be outside, blocking. It just depends on how their defense plays us and what they give us."

It sounds as if this is also an elder Dog who still cares about winning bowl games; logical given that he's only had one shot at such compared to teammates with two post-season victories under their belts. There are other good reasons though, such as scoring a 30th victory for the recruiting class of 2009 which Bumphis was a leading part of. Maybe the leading part at the time in fact, as he was the only Mississippi State prospect who knew, and was known by, Dan Mullen. The then-coordinator at Florida courted Tupelo native Bumphis until taking the State job, then kept recruiting. Successfully, obviously.

Bumphis said he's satisfied to have made the correct call.

"I am, 100%. I look back at it now and I know 100% I made the right decision. The thing I liked about Florida was the offense, and when the offensive coordinator comes to your state then you have no choice really."

The only real regrets are not taking State to an conference titles over these four years. And letting his last Egg Bowl get away, after a historic three-straight victories, does still sting a little. Otherwise, his attitude on 2012 is it was mostly a success.

"We had a good season, we won games. Of course the last one is going to be sour, that's the one we count down to. But other than that I think we did pretty good."

Practicing began Friday afternoon for the Gator Bowl, but for Bumphis and other seniors and even a lot of underclassman starters this part of campus camp is light duty. Mullen and staff naturally want to watch the backups, reserves, redshirts, all of them go full-speed and run the real offense and defense instead of doing scouting services. This is particularly true at receiver; remember all those seniors and their squad-topping statistics?

Somebody has to pick up the slack and maybe even the pace, thus the priority on young receivers for now.

"I think it's going to help Robert Johnson a lot, because he is coming along now," Bumphis said for one example. "Once he gets his confidence down at all times then nobody can stop him. I think this week will help a lot of the young guys, too. I'm interested in seeing Fred Brown. He's pretty good, too.

"Then you've got Brandon Holloway who is probably the fastest man in the state. He's looked good, whenever he can get the ball in his hands he can just go." Bumphis certainly expects redshirts Brown and Holloway to go farther in their first spring now that Coach Tim Brewster is hands-on with them and not game-prepping with the veterans. They only had one season together, but Bumphis is forever grateful for the time with Brewster.

"He's been great for us. The thing is, us as seniors and him as a coach we're teaching each other. He was coming in not knowing the offense so we were teaching him but he would teach us smaller things about route running and just how to be a better overall receiver. So he's been great for us." Not just technically but intangibly, too. Brewster is simply fun to play for and work with for lots of reasons.

Such as… "It's the nicknames that he calls everybody. He just loves to add a ‘y' to everybody's name so he calls Heavens ‘Heavy' and (Sam Williams) Sammy." Wait, does that mean Bumphis is…Bumpy?

"Yeah, sometimes he does," Bumphis hangs his head in mock-mope.

Well, there were bumps along the way and the senior season wasn't always smooth either. But Bumphis will exit the Mississippi State stage on New Years Day 2013 with a roster of records, many victories, and lots of pride about his part in putting this program in the spotlight again. Oh, and just because most of the leading pass-catchers are departing with him, is no reason to lower expectations for next fall.

"You've got Tyler back, you've got LaDarius (Perkins) back who are basically going to lead the offense. Then those young receivers you know what they can do. Joe, Robert, Jameon (Lewis), they're going to be really good, they've got a lot of talent. Get them just going and it will be a good offense."

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