It is indeed. Never mind how Prescott has started Bulldog games, both conference and non and a bowl game as well with victories already on the resume. This is Mississippi State’s 2014 debut and nothing says ‘#1 quarterback’ like being the big Dog on opening day. Even if Prescott has had eight months knowing his starting status, even when all Bulldog Country has been awaiting his first cadence-countdown of the first game, there’s still just something special about it all.
“Just really ready get the team going, lead the team, and we couldn’t be more ready for it,” Prescott said on Monday of this opening game week.
Do read that line again, noting the ‘we’ rather than any ‘I’. Spoken like a team leader, hey? Which Prescott absolutely is. If all—all!—he brought to the Bulldog table were his formidable and by the way still-developing talents the fourth-fall junior would have more than enough qualifications to be counted a leading light on the 2014 roster. Certainly he is regarded as the most complete quarterback of Coach Dan Mullen’s six-season State tenure.
But of course by now all understand the impressive intangibles that make him remarkable. And, why none are in the least concerned how Prescott will cope with the months of build-up to opening day. Which is not to say the man himself doesn’t appreciate the differences from 2013 alternate to 2014 number-one stature.
Because, Prescott said, he’s a different Dog in some important ways. “I think the game will be a lot slower this year than it was last year. Having those starts under my belt and knowing what to expect, and just going out there and playing the full game. Hopefully no in-and-out type deal.” Not that Prescott anticipates playing the entire opener. True-soph Damian Williams has worked just as hard to get his own turns, much like Prescott did in 2012 after he had the luxury of redshirting that is.
Regardless of rotations or whatever the quarterbacking plan, Prescott intends to show fans and foes what and where he has raised his game since directing the Liberty Bowl blowout.
“I’m excited about it. I have great coaches, Coach Mullen and Coach (Brian) Johnson and the strength staff, everybody, in telling them what I wanted to improve on and just helping me do that. My receivers as well, the offensive line will protect. I think I’m improved in other aspects as well, I’m excited about it.”
So is everyone else, even outsiders who are scrutinizing Mississippi State a little more closely now. Not enough to rank the Bulldogs quite yet, but they are attracting enough attention that with an early win or two making the September polls is practical. Not that just earning a number in front of the name is this team’s ambition, though. Or re-writing a lot of statistical records…though goodness knows Prescott has every opportunity to do so this season with the running and receiving and blocking talents surrounding him.
“It’s more about taking one game at a time and making sure we get that win no matter if the running back runs all the touchdowns and I don’t even throw a pass to Jameon (Lewis). Regardless it’s getting better, helping the team out, and doing your 1/11th.” Though as everyone understands, a quarterback’s 1/11th just feels a lot larger than the other ten.
This attitude translates to a larger scale too, in terms of what Prescott wants out of this lidlifter. He echoes the approach Mullen is applying. While fans will be looking for big plays, big statistics, even a big margin of victory that outsiders are (perhaps a bit over-optimistically) projecting, the quarterback and coach have set two goals.
First is a win, of course. But second is to play a clean game, to put what has been practiced into action with efficiency and a mid-season level of execution. Or better. This is a good measure how Mississippi State’s mindset has matured, in fact.
“I mean, going in the first game of a season we’ve played against ourselves for the whole camp and spring football,” said Prescott. “So now to go in and just know what we can do, perfect everything we do offensively and defensively against another opponent, I think that will make a successful game.”
A possible kink in fan plans is figuring exactly what to expect from Southern Mississippi. Their proud program fell off the proverbial cliff two years ago with one win since. But State staff and squad have seen something else in scouting, with scheming and play selecting not being USM’s problems; health and depth and experience were the 2013 issues. Now their lineup has got some personnel back, brought in new size and skill, and learned tough lessons. Count Prescott suitably impressed.“They’re a good team, they do some good things on defense. Not too complex I guess you could say but they do some things and do those things well they key on.”
It’s also understood, and Mullen said so Monday, that the opening game is still as much learning about themselves as any opponent. That holds true even with a relatively-veteran lineup of guys who have rushed and caught and blocked. Until they do it together as a new team, new season, some uncertainty remains. Take an offensive line which has to replace two starters and now adapt to a late-camp injury. The group should be up to the task, but…only playing live snaps proves it.
Then again this is where a proven play-making quarterback can lend confidence to the front five, and Prescott is (literally and physically) behind whatever quintet lines up Saturday.
“I trust every one of those guys that are put up there. The coaches know what they’re doing and wouldn’t put them up there if they couldn’t do the job, no matter if they’re a center moving to tackle or a guard moving to the other guard. Whatever it is I trust those guys as my brothers, I know the work they put in to get in the position. To be the starter or be the backup where ever they are, I mean we all have trust.”
Prescott is also proud of one of those blockers, and a fellow Louisianan in Dillon Day, for selection as team captain. Because after all, who is the quarterback closer to than the center? “I mean I have Dillon and Malcolm (Johnson). And Jay Hughes, those guys are brothers and we’re all excited for them and happy they represent us.”
The Bulldogs have four more days of preparing to represent themselves properly on opening evening. Gameplans should all be installed after Tuesday’s practice, and while the actual lineup won’t be settled by Mullen and staff until week’s end the players should have their role and assignments understood. Especially, Prescott agrees, since so much of this roster has been through this drill before. So yeah, taking the first snap of a whole new season is certainly special.
But it oughtn’t cause more than the usual pre-game butterflies for this Bulldog triggerman. This week is all-business for Prescott, just as it should be.
“No matter if it is the first game or the last game, the last game, three games in, it’s all game prep. It’s getting in there watching film, studying your opponent, getting better on the offense you’re doing.”