Especially so when a quarterback is about to see that same defense from a much, much closer vantage point. Like, directly across the line of scrimmage, when Prescott is calling cadence for #1-ranked Mississippi State against #3 Alabama.
Since last Saturday evening’s overtime finish from Baton Rouge, Prescott has been able to evaluate specific scouting clips of the Crimson Tide. The generalities are the same from TV’s angle; or from all previous views of an Alabama defense.
“They’re big guys,” Prescott said. “They run well, they tackle well from front to back. But this league is physical. Arkansas is a physical game, LSU, Auburn, I mean its big physical games all throughout the season.”
This one should take mutual physicality to another level though. Mississippi State’s offense is built around pounding the ground; Alabama relishes stuffing run games and allows less than three yards for every attempt. Did somebody say, strength on strength?
And in most recent matchups, the Tide defense has been stronger. Take last year’s shut-down of the Dog ground game with 53 net yards. 2012 in Tuscaloosa? Much the same theme. What makes Prescott and club believe this re-matchup will play out otherwise? Confidence, to begin with.
“We’re a different team,” Prescott said. And with confidence is commitment to do what the Dogs do. “We’ve got to run off the ball, be physical up front, control the line of scrimmage. And we’ve got backs that can make plays.”
Josh Robinson for one, obviously, the SEC’s #2 rusher by average. He would be #1 if not for taking most of the Tennessee-Martin game off. Robinson still heads to Tuscaloosa netting 109 yards a week. 6.7 a carry, with 11 touchdowns. Which just happens to be Prescott’s own total of rushing scores in State’s double-trouble running schemes.
“We’re both two physical guys, we can take pressure off of each other on the run game,” Prescott said. “Yeah, with the offensive line making some blocks we’ll be alright.”
It’s worth remembering too that a year ago Prescott was not alright for this contest. A late-game hit at Texas A&M numbed the left arm and sidelined Prescott for the next 11 whole quarters and one overtime. Would his presence have made the home game play out better for the Bulldogs? That’s only speculation of course. What is clear, is Prescott wants to make up for the missed chance.
“I wanted to play so bad. They were ranked #1 the last time. So that was tough being out for that game. Of course I wanted to get out there. So now being able to go into Tuscaloosa and be the starter and be healthy, I’m very excited.”
And, not the least intimidated. Any nerves would have shown in 2012, when as a redshirt frosh he was given an already-lost cause to run out the evening. Prescott used the opportunity to go 4-of-6 passing with a two-yard scoring toss to Robert Johnson, for the only Bulldog points. He couldn’t save that game…
…but Prescott certainly could store the experience in a career-account. And if this is a different Dog team headed to Bryant-Denny Stadium, it’s in a huge way due to how different Prescott is.
“I’ve grow a lot in every aspect of life, I’ve grown in every aspect of the quarterback position. So I don’t think there will really be any jitters going into that stadium. But I guess that kind of got me familiar with that place and knowing I could score as a freshman.”
Speaking of different… Somewhere over this season’s successful course Prescott and the offense have gone off-script a few times. Nothing really terrible, much less anything that cost a game. Still this is the point of a win-streak season that everything can get magnified immediately. A fumble against Kentucky was frustrating; this Saturday it could be fatal. A late pick-up in coverage, the same. Or just a teeny tiny bit of indecisiveness can turn a big-hit opportunity into, well, the other sort of big hit.
Prescott said the UTM game did help the first offense clean up some aspects, such as the turnovers. Still he and State have to get back to the same sharp, explosive approach that won three-straight games over ranked team and catapulted the Bulldogs to their current #1 status.
It begins with the man calling cadence, said Prescott. “I was kind of hesitant in pulling the trigger the last couple of games. I’m ready to get back to just playing confident and letting it go.”
Something else State is letting go, or rather setting aside for now, is that ranking. Being #1 had made the Dogs a target to be sure. But they are going to a venue where top spot is assumed to be a birthright of sorts. In other words, Alabama won’t be impressed. Nor are oddsmakers who have given the home team a healthy advantage.
That’s fine by the Bulldogs and their quarterback. In fact, “We’re back to the team we were to begin the season, the team we were earlier in the season. Nobody expected us to win and didn’t think we could win and we were underdogs in all those games. It feels good to be back to that, rather than us expected to win by a huge margin and if that doesn’t happen everybody is question. It’s good to be back to ourselves.”