The Mississippi State Bulldogs will kickoff their home opener Saturday against Alcorn State, probably without the services of their unquestioned leader on offense, quarterback Tyler Russell. Russell is doubtful against the Braves Saturday, leaving his responsibilities up to sophomore Dakota “Dak” Prescott.
Prescott completed 7 of 17 passes for 89 yards, after Russell left last Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State in the third quarter with a concussion. Russell suffered a hit to the head after meeting the knee of Cowboys linebacker Ryan Simmons during a scramble. Russell to even take a snap in practice this week would be considered highly unlikely. This all but guarantees that Prescott will make his first career start in Week 2 this Saturday.
Prescott was used extensively in 2012, much like a Blake Bell at Oklahoma for Landry Jones, the previous two seasons, as a “Bulldozer” in red zone and short yardage situations. Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen used another true freshman the same way in 2006 at Florida, Tim Tebow. Prescott is much more bigger and a more gifted runner compared to Russell, appearing in every game last season besides Troy. Prescott threw his first pick in game action at the collegiate level, facing the Cowboys during the Texas Kickoff last Saturday. Prescott ran for 110 yards, and passed for 194 yards, a eight touchdown combined total in 2012.
Prescott came on strong in the last half of the 2012 schedule, when the Bulldogs lost five of their last six games. All five Bulldogs losses came by two touchdowns or more, Prescott passed for a touchdown in three of the losses. Russell, went for nine touchdowns to nine interceptions during that span, after a dazzling eight touchdowns and no interceptions the first three weeks of the season. Russell finished with nearly 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2012.
Prescott is ready to take the keys to the only current winless SEC West team and its offense. Prescott has gotten valuable experience in games but even more valuable learning experiences behind the tutelage of Russell. There’s nobody better to click with than Russell. He’s only one passing touchdown away from the school record for passing touchdowns.
Mississippi State will have no trouble in handling Alcorn State, but the next week against Auburn, Russell’s presence is a difference in a bowl game for both clubs. The Bulldogs had four other starters in the 21-3 loss to Oklahoma State go down and not return later in the game. Prescott underwent surgery to repair a ligament in one of his big toes and missed a lot of spring camp, but looked fine in his first appearance Saturday.
Mullen said true freshman quarterback Damian Williams would be behind Prescott facing Alcorn State. Williams, a true freshman, was a four-year starting quarterback at Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, Louisiana. Williams committed to the Bulldogs, back in January after originally committing to Southern Miss the same month. Williams is the same type of quarterback as Prescott, but the true freshman has a quicker burst and can get you even more yardage on the ground in a single play. Prescott’s longest run of his career is 15 yards.
The Bulldogs could easily win the next three games, but the LSU game after that looks disastrous for whoever is the Bulldogs quarterback. Dan Mullen has never beaten a top 25 team at Mississippi State, so looking at that game as a glass half full would be wise for those in Starkville.