Still, whether or not Prescott does hoist the Conerly Trophy like five Bulldogs before him, Mississippi State’s quarterback is carrying something even heavier on his shoulders. And, in his heart. Prescott is assuming responsibility for making this December count towards a fitting ending to the 2014 season. Maybe even a jump-start on into 2015.
Because for all the hurt lingering from loss of the Egg Bowl, the Bulldogs aren’t done. As Prescott predicted in Saturday’s immediate aftermath, “We just have to fight adversity again. The second loss, respond from it. We’ve had success but we’ve got to show we can continue to grow and get better even after a loss.”
Now to be sure most of college football around the country would love to experience this ‘adversity’ Prescott speaks of. A ten-win regular season and upcoming College Football Playoffs bowling assignment? At least a hundred programs would sign up for such adversity right now.
But that’s exactly how Bulldogs are supposed to feel after letting a rivalry game slip through State’s grasp, along with any chance of being in the CFP semifinals. So when Prescott accepted team-leadership responsibility to step to the post-loss podium, his words meant something.
“Just heartbreaking. We had such a great season and to lose or give away the Egg Bowl right there, that hurts.” Note, how Prescott equated losing with giving away. With no insult meant to the winning team, his comment said so, so much more than just the words.
It spoke to how Prescott perceives this 2014 team and for that matter the state of State football. Yes, rivalry games are unpredictable, especially when playing away from home. What Prescott said and will continue to say through December’s bowl preparations is today’s Dogs go into any and every game not hoping to win.
They are supposed to win.
This is a MSU-mindset which Prescott has witnessed and worked for during his own four seasons in Coach Dan Mullen’s program. It might be stretching things a little too far at this moment to say today’s Dogs regard any defeat as an upset. But it’s accurate to say they come out of any setback upset. Along with fans, of course.
“It’s changed it tremendously,” said Prescott. “Everybody expects us to win, fans expect us to win. The game we’re supposed to win they expect us to win big. I mean it just changes everybody’s expectations and raises the play from the players, with the fans base. It’s really great for the program.”
’Great’ applies to Prescott’s junior season very well. In the dozen games, he broke and set no less than ten Mississippi State statistical records. One he already owned, rushing yards by a quarterback with 939 to surpass last year’s mark; and with enough runs in the bowl game he will not only break the K-mark but give State two 1,000-yard runners on the same team for the first time ever. He also needs just 65 yards running or throwing to become the first Bulldog to break 4,000 in total offense.
Prescott has destroyed the season standards for touchdowns-responsible with 37, which does not officially include his scoring catch on the option play at South Alabama. He is tied for the season touchdown passes record with former teammate Tyler Russell at 24 and obviously has a bowl game to break it in. His first completion in post-season should net enough ground to make Prescott the program’s first 4,000-yard season passer, too. And on and on the list goes, without getting into how many career records he already holds in just three varsity seasons…and only this one as the full-time starter.
This naturally raises State concerns of will there be another season, and Prescott heard it Saturday with a question about his plans for 2015. “As in?” he responded. When the reporter made his query just a little clearer, about the NFL, “Oh, I mean, nah.” Perhaps not a ringing affirmation and the topic is sure to arise again this evening. Not that any answer will stop the topic until spring practice begins with #15 taking the first direct-snap.
Much more immediately is the matter of bowl camp. Mississippi State will learn its post-season destination and date this Sunday. A tentative campus practice schedule has been written out, working around the end-of-semester obligations of final exams and December graduations for a few Bulldogs. Mullen and staff had their regular Sunday meeting with the team before scattering on recruiting work this week.
Besides firming-up existing commitments and continuing to court undecided prospects, the State staff now knows some areas of less-expected needs to recruit for. Offensive line is the obvious priority now with three starters graduating and uncertainties about current underclassmen and redshirts, and junior college or transfer blockers are of increased focus. The defensive line is in better returning shape despite three graduations too, so depth there is the need now.
Prescott and club will do their recruiting part with visitors the next two weekends. Still the quarterback’s immediate ambition is washing away most of the Egg Bowl bitterness—but not all since some will be useful for both bowl and 2015 motivation. At the same time, Prescott said end-of-schedule letdown can’t carry over into post-season play. Not if these Bulldogs want to become the first 11-win team ever at Mississippi State.
So, Prescott said, it’s a clear December goal. “Just fight adversity, come back and fix all the things we did wrong. Just get the momentum going early and have a good, fun bowl practice. And I think we’ll be great for the bowl game.”