Relf-ed Again

STARKVILLE, Miss. - For three straight years, Ole Miss had few answers for Mississippi State Quarterback Chris Relf. Thankfully, he's a senior, but he leaves Starkville with a 3-0 record as the starter for the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State senior Quarterback Chris Relf will not go down in the annals of SEC football as one of the greats.

But he will be remembered by Bulldog faithful and Rebel fans as a Rebel killer.

Relf, a load at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, will leave Starkville with a perfect 3-0 record against the Rebs as MSU's starting quarterback.

Not surprising.

The Rebs had no answer for him in 2009 when he ran the option to perfection and defeated a Cotton Bowl-bound Rebel contingent.

In 2010, he didn't churn up as much yardage on the ground, but he directed a win that featured some aerial efficiency many thought he did not possess.

And then there was 2011.

It was not a given Relf would even start against the Rebs. The Bulldogs had been going with three QBs the last couple of games - Tyler Russell, Dylan Favre and Relf.

But all MSU Coach Dan Mullen had to do to help him make up his mind on who to play was look at the last two Egg Bowl films.

He could also look at the long list of SEC Backs of the Week the Rebel defense has yielded.

The easy choice - Chris Relf.

Relf came out immediately carrying the mail, leading the Bulldogs down the field on the first possession of the game that resulted in a touchdown. He was the main weapon that gave MSU a 7-0 lead.

More importantly, Relf softened up the Rebel defense for TB Vick Ballard and TB LaDarius Perkins. Ole Miss started keying more on Relf, opening up big lanes for Ballard and Perkins.

Lights out for the Rebels and the forgettable 2011 season.

In the first quarter alone, MSU rushed for 138 yards and led 14-0. Relf had 50 of those yards while Ballard and Perkins had 44 each.

Relf's lone hiccup came early in the second quarter when he threw an interception at his 40 to Safety Cody Prewitt, but beyond that, he was virtually flawless and definitely set the tone for the game, like he had twice before against the Rebels.

LaDarius Perkins
Associated Press

And he followed that wayward pass with a 20-yard TD toss to Perkins to make up for his error.

Relf, however, was not the only reason the Rebs got mashed by the Bulldogs and finished the year 2-10.

The Rebs continued their season-long trend of anemic offense. Ole Miss played dink ball, with no sign of explosiveness. It seemed like a 5-yard gain was a cause for celebration.

A third-and-2 situation was a hold-your-breath proposition. Little push from the offensive line, missed blocks, the obligatory false start or two, and our old friend Mr. Turnover, all there for everyone to see and all quite predictable based on the results from the first 11 games of the year.

When the Bulldogs had the ball, until they seemed to lose interest in the one-sided game, they gashed the Rebs, time and time again.

For all intents and purposes, the game was over at 21-0 and, mercifully, so was this disaster of a season.

No need fretting the second half, just sit back, relax and enjoy the Bryan hot dogs.

The best part about Ole Miss' representation in Starkville, by far, was the Pride of the South band, who put on a nice show for the MSU fans, even though some of them started filing out early.

Why get soaked in the rain when you know the outcome well in advance of the ending?

The Houston Nutt Era is officially over, but in reality it's been over since he was informed he would not be retained as the head coach three weeks ago, but could finish the season.

Lame duck scenarios seldom work.

The wisdom of the decision to allow him to remain at the helm the last three games didn't wash, as many predicted. What we got was just a watered-down continuation of what we have been witnessing all year.

There was no rallying around the coach. No win one for the staff. No desire to exhibit much pride or fight.

Flip the page. . . and glad to be doing so.

Now, we can turn our full attention to the fix to this mess.

All-time hero, Archie Manning, and Memphis Rebel fanatic Mike Glenn are charged with the task of hiring a new coach and new athletics director.

The "new guy" they choose will not have an easy task on his hands.

This team is in disarray, to put it mildly, and it will take a strong, determined hand to get it back on track.

An emphasis on discipline, academics and offseason development will have to be priority number one, but he'll also have to burn the midnight oil recruiting to restock the roster with SEC players.

It says here it can be done. Yes, it will be difficult, but "kids" will do what is required and demanded of them.

And contrary to popular belief, there is a nucleus of good young players on this team, guys who want to do things the right way, guys who want to win, guys who want to get an education, guys who will lead.

A new coach, a new staff, a new attitude and that nucleus of solid kids is what we all have to hang our hats on as Rebel fans.

Mississippi State has now won three straight against the Rebels, but have beaten nobody else in the SEC West in that time frame.

The Bulldogs better enjoy it.

Nothing, we have painfully discovered, lasts forever and neither will their recent dominance of Ole Miss.

And the Rebel killer - Chris Relf - will be gone.

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