I'll get to the QB situation in a moment.  First, a few things I want to point out. 

Brandon Wilson really seems to be coming around.  I think this is a testament not only to him as a player but also to the Wilson defense.  Keep in mind, a good bit of Wilson's defense mimics Manny Diaz's schemes only without as much aggressive blitzing.  This means that the Mike LB position will get to make a lot of plays.  We saw it last year with Chris White and we're seeing it now with Wilson.  Anyone wondering if CJ is second-guessing his Ole Miss career?  Brandon Maye is gonna have a tough time wrestling that position away from Wilson.  The only problem is that Wilson is a senior and next year we'll have to find another Mike LB to step in.  But, hey, you gotta be impressed with Wilson's progress.

Same goes for the rest of the defense.  Diaz built his defense on a "bend-dont-break" philosophy and I think Chris Wilson has adopted it.  Yes, they give up some big yards but the only number that matters is the scoreboard.  It seems a different player steps up and makes a big play the moment the opposing offense gets on a roll and they're momentum is shut down.  We've seen it from Wilson, Lawrence, Broomfield, Banks, Whitley, Eulls and several other guys.  So far I like what I see.  This defense gets better every week and if the offense can fix their problems...look out.

And all the praise I heaped on Brandon Wilson I could ditto for Cam Lawrence.  Has this guy become the biggest surprise for MSU fans or what?  I don't think anyone saw it coming, but I like it.  Lawrence seems to be everywhere.  He reminds me a lot of Josh Morgan - the hard hitting safety that helped anchor the Bulldog secondary in the early 2000's.  The difference is Lawrence is playing linebacker.  He knows how to attack the football.

Nick Griffin played Saturday.  Four carries for 25 yards.  Think yall know my opinions on that.  I would have pursued a medical redshirt.  Maybe he wasn't eligible because the injury happened in the spring.  I'm not sure about the rule specifics, but I think it's a shame to burn a year of eligibility for him.  We're gonna need him big-time next year and I would have given him ample time to recover. 

Once again, I say, do not throw at Johnthan Banks.  This guy is a ball hawk.  That INT was one of the most athletic plays made by this State team this year.

Now, the QB issue.

Again, like last week I didn't exactly see a mountain of mistakes made by Relf.  So I agree with the coaches on that one.  He seemed to make the right reads and made some decent throws (yes, some were off target) but he wasn't exactly all over the place.   Again, he was rushed, didn't have time to set up, his receivers dropped some catchable balls and his O-Line couldn't get the RBs any running room.  But football is a funny game.  Russell comes in and the mood of the entire team changes.  You could see it happening.  Suddenly these guys start playing loose and start making plays.  No more dropped balls.  Not as many missed assignments.  It was enough to open up the offense and force UAB to protect more against the pass.  And when that happened it allowed MSU to run the ball effectively.  And if State can be effective on the ground they're gonna win.  Period.

So, the MSU quarterback has to be effective enough with the passing game to keep the defense honest and that opens up the running game.  Relf just hasn't done it.  I could list any number of reasons why but, bottom line, he hasn't done it.  Again, I go back to that last play against Auburn.  Since then, we have seen a different Chris Relf.  He's just not the same player.  So, because of that, I agree that Tyler Russell should be State's new starting QB.  He earned it.  Perhaps sitting for a game or two will be enough to slap Relf out of the funk that he's in. 

My only concern is that Russell hasn't looked stellar against SEC defenses.  Granted, he's seen limited time against those teams, but I'm not 100% convinced that he can do it.  Yes, he's earned the position.  We've seen him shred inferior secondaries.  But, when facing SEC talent the game seems to get very fast for him and he looks nervous in the pocket.  Perhaps that will change, and this game was what he needed to get in the zone.  Time will tell.

Either way, no matter who starts, I think Mullen should be ready to use the other guy if things don't go well.  Force South Carolina to defend two very different players.  I like Russell and he no doubt is the future of this team.  I'm just hesitant from what I've seen so far to annoint him as the savior of the 2011 season.

helmet2Helmet Stickers:   Tyler Russell, heck he gets the game ball.  Fletcher Cox had his first big game.  Cam Lawrence and Brandon Wilson led the linebackers.  Johnthan Banks gets his 4th pick of the season.  Bumphis looked good on his routes and that TD play was lights out.  Vick Ballard breaks 100 yds for the first time in a while, and it's a welcome sight.  Malcolm Johnson gets his first TD catch and Marcus Green made a great play on his TD.  James Carmon seemed to have a big impact on the O-Line once he entered the game.