Carson: Miss. State QB shines unnoticed
Alex Carson | Monday, November 23, 2015
A year ago, he was the name on everyone’s lips. He led a school that’s far from being a traditional power to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings headed into the final Saturday of the regular season, putting his name into the Heisman conversation as one of 2014’s best stories.
Of course, Mississippi State lost to Ole Miss on the final weekend last year, falling out of playoff contention and, quite frankly, out of everyone’s minds. What looked like a potential controversy — could a non-champion keep Ohio State, TCU or Baylor out of the playoff? — evaporated and with it, our nation’s focus on college football’s best quarterback.
This week, Mississippi State senior Dak Prescott leads his team into the Egg Bowl once more, but at 8-3, well out of most people’s minds, distanced from his status a year ago at the center of “Starkvegas.”
But what if I told you Prescott was even better this year than he was a season ago?
You probably wouldn’t believe me because, quite frankly, you aren’t paying much attention.
The Bulldogs are far from a major player on the national stage this year — a 31-6 loss to Alabama is the closest they’ve particularly come to relevancy — but after a slow start, Prescott is working his magic once more, keeping the door open for another 10-win season in Starkville, Mississippi.
He’s on pace to match last season’s figures through the air, if not surpass them, and could well match his rushing touchdown total from a year ago as well, especially with the way he’s been playing recently.
Of course, that all came to a head Saturday night, when the Bulldogs pulled out the win in one of the season’s best games, a 51-50 win at Arkansas that saw Prescott and Brandon Allen go toe-for-toe for 60 minutes.
Outside of Mississippi and Arkansas, few probably watched the offensive show — and given each team’s standing right now, that’s quite fine — but nevertheless, it was a treat.
To understand Prescott’s stat line Saturday is to understand what makes him so incredibly good, even in a year where his team’s lost three times. He threw for 508 yards and accumulated seven total touchdowns, and that wasn’t even the impressive part of his performance against the Razorbacks.
Mississippi State ran 86 plays excluding punts Saturday. Prescott ran 50 times and rushed another 15.
That’s 65 of 86 plays that rested on either the arm of the leg of head coach Dan Mullen’s star quarterback.
And this isn’t some one-off occurrence for the Bulldogs. It’s a trend.
The previous week against Alabama, Mississippi State ran 87 non-punt plays. Prescott was responsible for 69 of them — 43 passing and 26 rushing.
Against Missouri on Nov. 5, Prescott accounted for 54 of the Bulldogs’ 77 offensive plays, while against Kentucky on Oct. 24, he was “only” the focal point of two-thirds of them.
He still racked up all six of the Bulldogs’ touchdowns, though.
At this point, I’d hope you get the picture.
Here’s the thing with Prescott this season: unlike a year ago, when running back Josh Robinson — you might remember his nickname: “Bowling Ball” — helped take the load off Prescott, the senior quarterback doesn’t have that kind of help this season.
That fact may have been underscored best against Alabama, when he was sacked nine times against the Crimson Tide. The Bulldogs’ hapless offensive line often left Prescott out to dry. Yet he still racked up more than 300 yards through the air.
Through seven SEC games, Prescott has either thrown or rushed on 74.9 of Mississippi State’s non-punting plays.
With a win over Ole Miss this Saturday, Prescott would complete a seemingly-impossible mission — finish tied for second in the vaunted SEC West with a one-dimensional offense.
And if the Bulldogs can defend home field in the Egg Bowl this year, they’d head into a bowl game with the opportunity for a second successive 10-win season.
That’d be as many in Prescott’s time as before it: Mississippi State won 10 games just twice, in 1940 and 1999, before his arrival.
Even if he doesn’t get the job done, which admittedly seems likely, the magnitude of what he’s accomplished over the last two years shouldn’t go unnoticed.
He surely won’t get a call to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony next month and, quite frankly, he’s probably not going to win the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s top quarterback.
But that’s not to say he doesn’t deserve it.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.