Prescott and the spring first-team offense did get hot in the air mid-way, as the unofficial media-kept numbers proved. This, after the Bulldog defense had a good grip on things for the first dozen or so series run. Which made today's scrimmage a complete contrast to last Saturday's results when the two offenses began well and were shut-down the rest of the way.
CB Cedric Jiles knew why. "The last practice it wasn't as much juice but everybody was more loose and confident and excited to just play."
Play, everyone did as Coach Dan Mullen put on a long and serious scrimmage to end the third week of spring training. There was some extra sense of urgency because for Mississippi State the camp calendar is running down fast. After today, Mullen has scheduled just two regular practices in advance of the Maroon-White Game on Super Saturday. There is a 15th session banked-away by the coaching staff they can and likely will use after the spring game to review.
Mullen, as transcribed here, said the second scrimmage script was almost identical to the first with the exception of two-minute situation. Being a coach, he couldn't be either happy or upset that the first offense used their situation to complete a 65-yard drive with a touchdown. It came from the 48-yard line as Prescott hit WR Jameon Lewis around the 20 and the slot receiver evaded several tacklers for the score. The second offense had to settle for a 50-yard field goal that had no chance.
But this, and most other scores, came after initial defensive domination. Not until the 13th try did a drive reach the end zone; by the first offense and covering 75 yards. It required converting a 4th-and-7 en route, too, with a 13-yard throw by Prescott keeping things moving.
The Bulldogs had 29 series in all, each starting from a scripted spot. Five of these produced touchdowns, four of them off the arm of Prescott. The veteran starter didn't have a great percentage day in the air, just 13 of 31. The balls that were caught often came up big though with an average gain of 19 yards per completion, and the touchdown plays were for 37, 48, four, and 26 yards.
Williams also threw a touchdown and had a better percentage of completions, but his catches netted 13 yards and three other throws ended up in the wrong hands as interceptions.
Four more series ended in made field goals, three of these by PK Evan Sobiesk from distances of 49, 33, and 35 yards. An un-listed walk-on wearing #41 made good on his only try, from 24 yards out, on a ‘halftime' series given to the respective third teams. But there were misses from 29 and 50 yards by second kicker Westin Graves, though the walk-on did make his PATs this scrimmage.
"The second half we started executing more," WR Fred Ross said. "The line blocked, the quarterback got the ball to playmakers, we started making plays."
For the defense's part they weren't thrilled to give up all those points after a strong start. Still, "I thought we did good," Jiles said. "We got better and continue to get better."
One reason for early offensive issues likely arose from senior OC Dillon Day being sidelined. He landed badly on his left arm late in Thursday's practice and came to Scott Field with the arm in a sling. In his absence starting RG Ben Beckwith became the #1 center; with spring #2 Archie Muniz staying on that team today. Snaps were erratic for all quarterbacks, often very high but none were fumbled…though #2 QB Nick Fitzgerald had to scrabble for a hike when in his end zone. Fitzgerald got away from pressure to throw the ball away, and the defense was convinced it was a safety because at first the officiating crew threw a flag for holding…then picked it up. Regardless, the snapping may have contributed to some initial trouble both offenses had in getting drives going.
Other non-participants were usual spring-suspects DT P.J. Jones, DT Kaleb Eulls—neither of whom have practiced this camp—as well as RB Ashton Shumpert, OG Justin Malone, DT Trent Simpson, and OG Jocquell Johnson. Late in the scrimmage reserve DT Jordan Washington reported to rehab after playing several series.
COACH DAN MULLEN: It seemed more ‘situational' play today? "No, it was all the same. To be honest it was the exact same format as last week. Now, we added a two-minute situation this week. But we'll watch film. A lot to learn on, a lot of good and a lot of bad we've got to get fixed and get ready to go."
Did you see a cleaner practice than Thursday? "Yeah, I think so. We've got watch it on film. It's probably never as good or never as bad as you think. Thursday probably wasn't as bad as I thought it was on the field. And out here today we saw some good things. What you want though (is) consistency. There's some things that we've got to get fixed up, we've got to cleaned up."
"We put the one offense in some good field situations, they've got to take advantage of those. (Defensively) You can't give up points right before halftime on two minute drills. Those are things we've still got to continue to get better at."
Last week you said you were satisfied with Sobiesk's kicking, was that true more so today? "Yeah, he made a couple. I mean I want him out here, we've got to put him in some situations and hopefully get a bunch of field goals next week. We're going to put some guys in pressure situations. When we step out here I want 100%. Last week is getting your feet wet back in the stadium; we expect when put placekickers on the field (they) be at 100%."
Turnovers, the defense had three interceptions? "Early, yeah. It started great, the two defense…I wasn't pleased with the two defense last week's scrimmage and watching it. Much more pleased today. We expect them with the guys that we rotate and the guys we play they should dominate in scrimmages. And I thought they did a great job of that today. So I thought that was god, especially the turnovers early we want to create."
What happened in the back-half that the offense cut up the defense? "Well, I think momentum always gets you. That's one thing guys learn; you're out here for a while but we're out here a long time game day. You've got to remember, you've got to get on it the next play. The one offense had four consecutive touchdown drives. I don't ever want to give up a touchdown but you figure there's a chance you might every once in a while; how do we respond to that? It can't go boom-boom-boom and lose momentum on the defensive side of the ball."
"But on the offense even when you're struggling, if you seize momentum and can ride a wave, go get as many points as you can get."
There was a 3rd-and-18 Dak found Gus over the middle, is that the development you're seeing? "Yeah, a big play. That decision making is always huge, that comfort there. Again, you look at Dak's development, the one thing you don't see is we don't really let him make many plays with his feet."
"We'll call quarterback runs out here but we whistle it and don't let him do anything special which he does well. So as long as we run it that way that is how you get the opportunity to see really good development because he's forced to make throws and stay in the pocket and make plays with his arm."
What did you see from the two backup centers with Dillon Day out? "It's how everybody is. The one-linemen, the trickle-down effect that happens as you move some people around. That's a position we have to stay healthy at this year. That's our youngest position on the team and you feel good about depth everywhere but there. The young guys are getting opportunities now to step up and they have to take advantage of those opportunities."
How is Day? "Good, he'll be fine. We don't need to rush or force anything. Guys that have played a lot of football right now we don't need to rush or force anything. But I don't think he'll do much more this spring."
With two practices and a spring game left on the schedule, is there a lot to get done? "Well, everything is in. A lot of reviews, a lot of guys continue to review what we need to get looked at, what we've repped. And we chart every little detail, so what we need to get reps on film, to get taught, the different looks and situations we need to get taught over this week."
"And the game next weekend, hopefully we have a huge crowd here. I want over 30,000, and I think we have the opportunity with baseball playing the school up north to set a baseball attendance record and a national attendance record at that. I'd like to break our spring game attendance record next week. And all of those, our baseball team we need to win that game. So the crowd is important too, it's huge for us the fans come see all the hard work these guys have put in. But also for these guys to be put in situations in front of a big crowd where a lot of guys haven't made decisions that have to."