With the Gator Bowl now a handful of days away, Mississippi State is more focused on beating Northwestern than anything else.
But in the periphery of study and practice for victory is a pair of milestones for two players who few seemed to believe in before the 2012 season kicked off.
Senior receiver Chad Bumphis, the star who many maintained had fallen off after a lackluster junior campaign, is in line to become only the second 1,000-yard receiver in MSU history. Sitting now at 904 yards this season, Bump is 96 yards away from the millennial mark. If he were to match his single-game career-high on New Year’s Day, he would sail straight past Mardye McDole’s single-season record of 1,035 receiving yards.
Bumphis is averaging just over 75 yards per game entering the Gator Bowl, so he would require an above average performance, but the milestone is certainly within the realm of high possibility.
In addition to other career and single-season records Bumphis has already set, junior quarterback Tyler Russell has seemingly rewritten the record book, having the best season by an MSU quarterback – ever – in 2012, and could leave after 2013 with the most successful career behind him.
The offensive explosion in the passing game has spilled over into the rushing attack, as well.
Junior running back LaDarius Perkins, who many claimed wasn’t big enough to make it as an every-down back in the SEC, is on pace to be the third 1,000 yard rusher in Dan Mullen’s four years in charge of the Bulldogs.
With 940 accrued rushing yards, Perkins could drop 20 yards from his per-game average (85.5) and still hit the 1,000-yard mark in Jacksonville.
If both Perkins and Bumphis hit their marks, it probably means MSU had a good game. Particularly with Perkins, MSU has won eight games when rushing for 100+, and lost every game when they’ve fallen short.
It wouldn’t be a surprise for the two to do well together, either. Against Troy, each had their career-best nights, with Perkins running for 179 yards and Bumphis racking up 180 through the air.
Of course, as nice as all of the milestones sound, they won’t be given to the stars. In fact, MSU would be perfectly if neither even touches the ball, so long as State beats Northwestern.
Offensive coordinator Les Koenning said they certainly won’t be altering the game plan to get Perkins or Bumphis their marks.
“It’s about opportunities,” Koenning said. “We tell them this all the time. You only have so many opportunities in the game, you don’t know when they’re gonna occur. Your opportunity may occur early, late, in the middle, we don’t know, and it’s your chance to make those plays. You can’t dictate that in a game.”
That doesn’t mean, however, MSU will avoid getting the records.
Using the same terminology as his coach, Bumphis said NU’s zone defense should allow him some chances to make plays.
Could he get to 1,000?
“It’s possible,” Bumphis said. “The way they play defense, we’re gonna have opportunities. We just gotta capitalize on it when we get them.”
And for Bumphis, the matchup is about more than breaking a[nother] record.
It’s his last game as a Bulldog. On New Year’s Day, Bumphis will put on the Maroon and White for the last game.
When he takes it off, he hopes to do so as a winner.
“It’s fun,” he said, “but it’s emotional. You just want to go out and play and have fun and make sure you leave with a good taste in your mouth.”
As he prepares to leave, Bumphis said he’s less concerned with the records and numbers. What he thinks about most is the time spent with his teammates.
“Just playing with these guys,” Bumphis said. “We went through so much together this offseason, and really the last four years. Just being able to have one more season with them has been great. That’s what I’ll miss the most, just being around the boys. Being able to go out and have fun every day.”
And without them, Bumphis said, the talk of 1,000 yards and the sight of his name at the top of several all-time lists would be non-existent.
“It’s been special for me, but you need help from your teammates,” he said. “People can’t just key in on one receiver, so it’s creating a lot of one-on-one matchups. A lot of it comes from production all over the field.”
If Bumphis gets those one-on-ones in the Gator Bowl, he may get both a win and his record.
“I think we’ll have opportunities,” he said with a grin.