STARKVILLE, Miss., - The Maroon roster may have had a few more weapons to work with but the White team gave them their money's worth Saturday afternoon in the annual Maroon-White Spring Game.
The White team rallied with 14 unanswered points to take a 20-17 lead on the final play of the third quarter only to watch it slip away with 1:11 to go when Sylvester Hemphill ran in to give the Maroon a 23-20 victory in front of 36,357 fans inside Davis Wade Stadium.
"We had a great crowd, great turnout and an exciting atmosphere on campus," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "We got to see a lot of guys who haven't played in this environment before come out here and be exposed to playing under some pressure."
The Maroon offense directed by rising senior Chris Relf and redshirt freshman Dylan Favre accumulated 374 yards on the day with 267 yards through the air and another 107 on the ground.
Relf headed the offense for the first three series before turning things over to Favre for the rest of the day. Relf completed 4-of-8 passing for 68 yards and rushing for a touchdown.
"It felt real good," Relf said. "I was out here watching the younger guys play. I feel like I'm experienced enough and I should go into this season that much more confident and work harder this summer to get better."
Favre had an impressive showing in his spring debut connecting on 17-of-26 passing for 199 yards, one touchdowns and one interception. He also showed he could make plays with his feet as well leading the team in rushing with 41 yards on 10 carries.
"I didn't throw the ball as well as I would have liked," Favre said. "With my height I think my mobility and ability to make plays with my feet kind of compensates for it."
Redshirt freshman Robert Johnson led the Maroon squad with seven catches for 74 yards and a touchdown while fellow redshirt freshman Brandon Hill caught four passes for 74 yards as well.
"I was impressed," Mullen said. "I expect that out of some of the veteran guys."
With the ball beginning at the 35-yard line each series, Relf immediately dove the Maroon offense right down the field on the first series. Relf moved the chains four times including two first downs the first two snaps before plowing in from a yard out on a sneak.
"Chris came out and was real sharp like he's been all spring," Mullen said. "He looked really good. We didn't need to see a lot. He's played a lot of games in this stadium and will play a bunch more next year."
Brian Egan provided the point after putting the Maroon on the board early.
The White offense scored as well on their first possession. Rising sophomore Tyler Russell overcame sacks by Fletcher Cox and Ferlando Bohanna enough to pick up two first downs and set up a 54-yard field goal by Derek DePasquale that barely snuck over the crossbar.
The game would remain 7-3 until Favre took over his first series in the second quarter. He methodically led the Maroon offense down the field with his arm and feet picking up five first downs and 12 plays later resulted in a 47-yard field goal by Egan to go back up by a touchdown.
But the White squad would answer right back with a 47-yard field goal of their own by DePasquale following a 37-yard hookup between Russell and Ricco Sanders.
Favre continued his offensive assault on the next drive going 65 yards in seven plays and finding Robert Johnson for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 5:25 before the half. Egan's PAT gave the Maroon their largest advantage at 17-6.
But Russell and the White offense could cut into that lead before intermission. Russell again found Sanders on a 37-yard completion on the first play from scrimmage. Four plays later he found his own Johnson to throw a touchdown to rolling right and hitting Malcolm Johnson from 14-yards out.
DePasquale's point after pulled the White team within 17-13 at the half.
The second half did not begin so successfully for Russell as his first pass was picked off by a diving Deontae Skinner.
But Russell atoned for the mistake on the next drive leading his offense on a 15-play, 80-yard drive that used up the remainder of the third quarter. The final play of the quarter was a 1-yard dive by Adrian Marcus following an 18-yard completion to Arceto Clark.
Gabe Bouldien's point after put the White up 20-17.
But the lead would not last as Favre took the Maroon down for a 8-play, 59-yard game-winning drive capped off by Hemphill's 2-yard touchdown.
"It was great to see it come down to that situation," Mullen said. "Dylan had them when they drove down. When you're running clock in the fourth quarter you're not going to get many opportunities. I told them they might get one more opportunity and they took advantage of it."
Dak Prescott attempted to bring the White offense back with just over a minute remaining. Bohanna sacked Prescott for a 9-yard loss on the first play but the true freshman came back with an 18-yard completion to Charles Bailey on the next play.
But that would be as far as the offense moved as Prescott's next two passes were incomplete leaving the White team on trash detail at 10 a.m. Sunday morning to clean up the stadium.
The White ended the evening with 267 yards of offense with 231 coming through the air.
Russell finished up 15-of-26 passing for 210 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
"A couple throws I made were decent balls and some things I did with my footwork were good," Russell said. "I think I just need to help the young guys out by making sure they do the right play, making sure I get the ball out on time so they don't have to work as hard."
Marcus led the White ball carriers gaining 33 of the team's 36 yards on the ground. He had one touchdown on 10 totes.
Chad Bumphis caught six passes for 48 yards but Clark was the deep threat hauling in four passes for 96 yards.
Bohanna topped the Maroon defense with eight tackles including three for loss and a pair of sacks. Matthew Wells added six stops including a half for loss while Skinner finished up with five tackles and an interception.
Dennis Thames and Brandon Wilson each had five tackles to lead the White defense while Jay Hughes and Chris Hughes finished up with four.
Jonathan Phillips had an interception for the White and Jeff Howie and Devin Jones combined for a sack.
Mississippi State will hold one final practice session on Monday to close out the spring. This practice is however closed to both the media and public.