The first four games of 2014 certainly has everyone involved with Bulldog football smiling, with a 4-0 worksheet so far and 1-0 debut in conference play. And that win coming at the expense of then-#8 Louisiana State, a Division rival who’d held a 14-year hex on Mississippi State regardless of coach or quarterback.
Now here comes Prescott, powering the Bulldogs to #12 in the A.P. polling with the program’s highest in-season ranking since way back in 1999. Which, by coincidence, was also the last previous yaer a State squad edged aside LSU as part of a eight-win streak. Or possibly it isn’t coincidence at all.
Without diminishing all the other aspects, such as a still-developing defense yet to play its potential best and a lot of runners and catchers to play-off, the key is Prescott. Without the junior triggerman this still could be a good team. With him in charge? The wise and wary will hesitate to project greatness…but neither does anyone deny the possibility.
Rankings aren’t the only numerical evidence either. Let’s look at the one-month statistics which prove Prescott is setting a pace unlike any Bulldog quarterback to come before him.
YARDAGE. Through four games Prescott has rushed for 378 yards, and thrown for another 964. The first is a position-record, albeit unofficial, for the first four games of any State season, and puts Prescott on pace to surpass his 829 ground yards as a ’13 sophomore when he did set the one-year record for a quarterback. As for his passing yards, only Kevin Fant in 2003 had more in a first month and he remains the only 1,000-yard September slinger ever at State. He came through the first four games with 1,082 yards.
But Fant was one of the few offensive weapons on a bad Bulldog team. A better comparison is from Prescott’s own redshirt freshman season of 2012. Tyler Russell came out throwing that year and through four games had 822 passing yards in four wins with eight touchdowns. Think of it, that despite a more potent ground game this year Prescott is still throwing for more yards than a pocket-type passer.
So then, how about a more direct ‘style’ comparison? Through two ’11 games Chris Relf was off to a roaring start himself, but the next two slowed dramatically. So through our first-four games standard Relf had 844 total yards and four touchdowns. If you’re asking about 2010, Relf had just 610 total yards in the same timeframe.
No, one has to go back farther, much farther, for the best dual-threat comparison. In 1982, when that team set offensive records that took three decades to top, John Bond mustered 952 yards on 108 total plays (passes and rushes) for six touchdowns. In 1985 Don Smith came close to Bond with 937 yards on 158 plays; before surpassing his former teammate in 1986 with 1,062 yards on 162 plays.
Now here is Prescott leaving everyone far behind. Oh, and he’s just the fifth Bulldog of any position to top 1,000 total yards through the first four games. Smith obviously did it first in ’86; then Todd Jordan accounted for 1,084 yards on 138 plays (almost all passing of course) in 1993. In 1995 it was Derrick Taite tallying 1,048 yards on his first 120 plays of a season, though some might be surprised to know he lost ground literally with sacks and all the net came via throwing. And then came Fant in 2003 with his net of 1,052 yards on 167 plays.
SCORING: Yardage stats are fun for discussion, but the main job of a top-tier quarterback is getting the football into the end zone somehow. Here too Prescott is setting an unprecedented and actually even more impressive pace.
All those beloved Bulldog names we’ve mentioned were able to move the ball and their teams, but as the scoreboard too often showed producing points was problematic. Or the individual totals through four games must be put in context of the time. Bond had great skill folk much of his career to work with and they did the honors. From 1997-2000 quarterbacking was split-up with Wayne Madkin and Matt Wyatt sharing snaps and stats so neither notched truly huge numbers. Nor did Sleepy Robinson, though we’ll never really know as his ’91 season was briefly interrupted by injury; then ’92 cut short permanently.
Smith? He only played for one winning team, as a senior, and had to carry far more of the load than any Bulldog before or after. His best first-four game scoring season was ’86 when he run or threw for nine touchdowns. If you wonder, that’s how many Jackie Parker had in 1953 when he set what was the SEC season record for decades to come.
It took Fant, finally, to be the first Dog with double-digit touchdowns through four games when he accounted for ten to begin 2003. It looked like a mark to stand almost as long as Parkers’…until Prescott came to the fore.
After having a hand, or feet, in nine touchdowns through the first four games of 2013 (yes, he only took over late against Oklahoma State), he’s exploded out of the ’14 gate. He got to the open date with 14 touchdowns running or throwing, as well as one more as a receiver. Yes, Prescott hasn’t just surpassed a record, he has raised it by a full 50%!
WINNING: And most of all, he has won games in the process which is the ultimate measure of a quarterback. Which leads to an interesting proposition about the rest of this season: if Prescott can keep the Bulldogs on the victory track, will he become the first State All-SEC quarterback since Smith in ’86? Or the first All-American at his position (major recognized teams) since Parker over six decades ago?
Or are we truly tempting those Fates since the season is just a month old with the tests only getting tougher? Maybe so. Or again, maybe the Fates have decided to take a positive position on Prescott and the 2014 Bulldogs. By the time the two upcoming contests with top-ten foes Texas A&M and Auburn have played out the picture will be much clearer. For everyone.