This game being of course the Battle for the Golden Egg. Not only is it so much more than another game already, but when Mississippi State (10-1, 6-1 SEC) takes on Ole Miss (8-3, 4-3) this year the implications will ripple beyond state borders.
Way beyond, certainly for a #4-ranked Bulldog team with Western Division hopes still alive and College Football Playoff status very much more so. For that matter the host Rebels have their own post-season stakes to play for, with every win improving both the date and climate for bowling.
Prescott appreciates all this. He just doesn’t give it any game-week priority.
”It doesn’t matter if we’re both ranked one and two, this game is special. It’s a good rivalry and good to be a part of it.”
A full part of it, in Prescott’s case. Oh, he certainly wrote his own chapter in the ancient rivalry last year. Taking over mid-fourth quarter with the Bulldogs down 10-7, Prescott overcame two weeks’ worth of rust for a left arm injury to take State to a 17-10 upset victory.to a tying field goal and even another kick that would have won in regulation. It missed,
Such heroics will always read well (to one side at least) in Egg Bowl annals. It’s just that Prescott would prefer playing an entire game, having subbed in the 2012 contest after Ole Miss had taken complete control. Finally, the junior quarterback can try setting the tone right from first offensive snap.
“It’s completely different knowing I’m taking all the reps at practice. Rather than last year, I mean I didn’t take pretty much any reps. Just knowing it’s me from the get-go and not coming in the fourth quarter to try to make something happen.”
Though it can’t be over-stated what Prescott made happen, especially under the circumstances. He was only cleared by a nerve specialist in pre-game, and even then Coach Dan Mullen wasn’t eager to put Prescott on the field. No, not even with 5-6 State fighting for bowl eligibility and the Rebels having won the year before. Prescott objectively understood. Emotionally?
“I was fighting it the whole game. Because Damian (Williams) was doing such a good job and I figured he was going to make a play to help us win the game. Emotions got to me and I wanted to go in and I told Coach Mullen I was ready to play. He went with me.”
Wisely. Prescott was able to direct a drive for the tying field goal, and even put State in position to kick for victory in regulation. The field goal missed but it only made the ending that much more memorable. With fourth down on the Rebel three Prescott overruled the sideline call of a pass play and took it upon himself—and his blockers—to get the yards. He did even better by getting the touchdown, and when the Dog defense stripped counterpart Bo Wallace for a fumble recovered in the end zone Prescott got to carry the Golden Egg around Scott Field.
”I just remember the stadium, the atmosphere, I mean it was a great game.” At Monday’s press conference Prescott re-introduced himself to the Egg, placed by the podium. “Isn’t it pretty?” he grinned.
To maintain possession of Mississippi’s most valuable hardware means winning in a much more hostile environment. Though after a first full season starting Prescott has been, well, seasoned by such settings.
“I mean, I’ve played over in Bryant-Denny, Death Valley. This is just another road game, another SEC road game. It’s part of a big rivalry but we’re going to focus on what we have to do as an offense to get going and get going fast and do exactly what we did this past week.”
Routing Vanderbilt 51-0 with over 500 yards and touchdowns on four of the first five offensive series (the defense got in on the scoring with a returned fumble) would be a fine template. More realistically, the Bulldogs used that SEC game to address some items rising from the loss at Alabama. Prescott said getting the MSU momentum turned back in the former direction was just what the offense needed.
”Get some good completions, easy completions, trust my guys and let it go downfield. For us to just roll like we did form the get-go, from the first series all the way through, yeah it felt good to get that offense going again with the defense stopping them on the other side. Just a good team win.”
But Vanderbilt isn’t an opponent on the same order as Ole Miss. Certainly not on defense, where the Rebels average allowing under two touchdowns each week. Their last two SEC contests were more problematic; 35 points from Auburn, 30 by Arkansas. Prescott isn’t deceived by statistics because the scouting video shows all he needs know.
”They’re good all the way around, they have a solid defense,” he said. Tricky, too, with a variety of blitzes from unexpected looks and sets which change so close to the snap offense can’t adjust again. “You have to watch that on film, and get comfortable with where they’re going to be and when they’re zone-dropping,” Prescott said.
“We just have to be on the same page in our protections, with the offensive line. Make sure we’re all communicating what they’re going to do up front and the blitzes that are coming. If we’re on the same page we’ll be fine, we’ll pick everything up and be able to make the plays downfield.”
Tuesday evening brings the next College Football Playoffs rankings release, and after dropping from first to fourth last week the Bulldogs certainly expect to hold place. Perhaps even move up a slot. Ole Miss is 18th (Associated Press) after the tough weekend, yet this Egg Bowl still will feature the highest combined ranking in its long, tumultuous history.
Nice, but unnecessary to Prescott. Just like telling the team they’re playing for anything beyond Saturday is meaningless.
“There’s not any pressure. This is a game we’re not even worried about playoffs, we’re not worried about anything but this game. And how important this is to us, to this University, and the people of Mississippi.”
Yes, big even for a Louisiana lad who didn’t know anything about Golden Eggs and such until visiting Mississippi State and seeing that countdown clock in the Bulldog locker room. To hear him talk now, one would think Prescott grew up living this rivalry year by year.
“This game means a lot to me, because it means so much to the University, to my teammates, to the people of the state of Mississippi. It’s a great rival, and to be a part of it and the quarterback of this team, representing Mississippi State is special.”
Special enough that while he has permission, Prescott won’t leave town for a short Thanksgiving Day break Mullen is allowing. “I’m sure the local guys an hour, two hours away from home will go home. Me, personally, I’ll go to Coach (Brian) Johnson or Coach (John) Hevesy’s house, maybe both. And enjoy my family up here.”