STARKVILLE, Miss. – With two hours of scrimmage work here on Saturday morning, head coach Dan Mullen got his first real look at the 2009 Mississippi State football team.
The defense won the day after a strong start in open field situations, but as the 100-play scrimmage wound down the offense began to find its footing and closed the gap significantly.
“Our defense won today. It wasn’t even close early,” Mullen said. “They built a big lead but the offense closed late. That’s a lesson our defense needs to learn – they can’t take their foot off the accelerator.”
The scrimmage began with the first and second units facing off beginning drives at the 35 yardline. After the starting offense picked up a pair of first downs on Anthony Dixon carries, quarterback Tyson Lee was intercepted by Zach Smith on a pass that bounced off of a receiver. The offense had troubles recovering after that turnover, going the next five series without moving past the 50 yardline.
After a punt period that featured a strong performance by junior college transfer Heath Hutchins, the first and second teams moved to the positive 40 yardline and the offense again started quickly. Lee hit Leon Berry with a 21-yard strike on third down to set up a 12-yard scoring toss from Lee to Delmon Robinson. The second unit saw its first drive stall when Chris Relf was intercepted by Bo Walters. The 1s returned to the field and Sean Brauchle got his impressive day started with a 27-yard field goal.
After the third units faced off for a few minutes, the starters returned to work on third-down situations. Both offensive units struggled mightily, converting only 2-of-12 third down attempts of various distances.
“Our defense – especially the defensive front – got good pressure all day today,” Mullen said. “Our offensive line had been looking very solid and then today we were just turning guys loose in our backfield.”
The scrimmage closed with a series of red-zone possessions for the offense, and both units performed at their highest levels of the day. Dixon set the tone on the second play of the period, breaking a 25-yard, hurdle-filled run for a score. The offense put points on the board six more times in the session, before ending the workout with a series of field goal attempts.
In the field goal period, Brauchle connected on attempts from 20, 32, 37 and 42 yards before coming up short on a pair of 52-yard attempts into a steady breeze.
The day began with a familiar face teaching a decade-old lesson to a new team, as Mullen introduced Kenzaki Jones to the squad. Jones was a special teams captain on the 1998 Southeastern Conference Western Division championship team, and is credited with the invention of the “Dawg Pound Rock,” a tradition that Mullen has embraced.
The Bulldogs will take the rest of the weekend off before returning to the practice fields on Tuesday for another week of work. The schedule next week remains the same as the week past, with workouts scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday scrimmage. All practices are open to the public.
Robinson 12 pass from Lee
Brauchle 27 FG
Dixon 25 rush (Brauchle PAT)
Brauchle 27 FG
Anderson 80 fumble recovery
Brauchle 22 FG
Hemphill 5 rush
Hanrahan 1 rush
Hemphill 5 rush
Henderson 2 pass from Lee
RUSHING: Dixon 10-64 TD, Hemphill 17-58 2TD, Hanrahan 12-28 TD, Lee 4-16, Relf 4-9.
PASSING: Lee 9-19-1-91, 2TD; Relf 5-18-2-29.
RECEIVING: Henderson 2-26 TD, Berry 2-25, Bowser 2-18, Bailey 2-12, Roberts 2-12, Wilder 2-11, Robinson 1-12 TD, Webb 1-2.
SACKS: Ferguson 2, D. Jones, McPhee, Stigers, Walters, White, Williams.
INTERCEPTIONS: J. Jones, Smith, Walters.