Well, we all were certain that when the dust finally settled after Saturday night's contest the Bulldogs would be 0-3 in SEC competition. Thankfully, it was the Georgia Bulldogs.
A nice pitch from Chris Relf to Vick Ballard turned into six points and gave the Bulldogs the lead early in the first quarter. They never lost the lead on their way to a 24-12 victory over Georgia. It was the first time MSU has beaten Georgia since 1974 and the win couldn't have come at a better time. Back to back SEC losses had placed a sense of urgency on the Starkville Dawgs and it was obvious that Saturday's game was pretty much a must win if there was going to be a reasonable shot at earning a bowl game. It was nice to see Coach Mullen and the Bulldogs prepared and ready to rise to the occasion.
The victory was nice, but did the Bulldogs improve on some of their weaknesses? One weak spot through the first three weeks of the season has been stopping kick returns. Too many times the opposing team managed to gain excellent field position because of a great return. I only remember that happening once tonight and we finally got a couple of touchbacks (entering Saturday's game we'd had none). I would say that is an improvement.
Last week's pitiful showing against LSU ended with five turnovers as the Tiger's pummeled us during most of the second half. Saturday night's game was far better...we turned the ball over only once. Coach Mullen took the heat for that one. The play was so ridiculously wrong for the moment it was called, I'm glad he took ownership for the mistake.
The defense is still rock solid. K.J. Wright was slapping balls down all night and Aaron Murray knows exactly what an angry, hard-charging, Pernell McPhee looks like as he was in the freshman quarterback's face all night. Charles Mitchell had seven solo tackles, he is a huge asset for our team's defense. Senior linebacker Chris White continues to impress also.
I've saved the best for last: How about Chris Relf? I heard a lot of rumblings from Bulldog fans the entire week before the game calling for Coach Mullen to pull the trigger and make Tyler Russell the starting quarterback for the rest of the season. Mullen has shown repeatedly that he is clearly more comfortable with Relf right now and he has stated that he 'goes with his gut feeling' during the games when it comes to a decision regarding which quarterback handles the ball each play. Chris Relf made some fantastic decisions during the game and few mistakes. He didn't really try to force a lot of throws, at times even throwing the ball out of bounds when his receivers were covered. Tyler Russell didn't touch the ball all night.
Russell will no doubt get more opportunities as the season progresses, but its clear that Coach Mullen continues to feel that Relf is best man for the job at this time. The end result of Saturday night's game reinforces what Mullen and the coaching staff has known all along. Don't get me wrong, it's very obvious that Tyler Russell will be the man in the very near future, but its a learning process and we all know that Coach Mullen knows a thing or two about developing young quarterbacks. It'll be very exciting when Tyler Russell eventually takes over for good.
Now Bulldog fans can take a deep breath and relax as we look ahead to next week's game. The Alcorn State Braves are coming to Starkville and this appears to be an easy win and a great opportunity for the Bulldog offense to tweak a few things before they face tougher opponents later in the season.