Fast forward to this September. Now the Bulldogs are on the home field for a rematch, and facing a LSU squad which appreciates the challenge in store this time. Other than that, though, Dak Prescott seems a similar situation.
And, comparable opportunity.
“It just gave us a little bit of confidence,” the Bulldog quarterback said of knocking LSU off in Tiger Stadium. “It reassured us that we know we can beat big-time teams. That’s what it did for us last year, and we plan to do the same.”
Mississippi State (1-0) will still be underdogs in the rematch, though not by enough margin to matter. Louisiana State (0-0) arrives ranked 14th by Associated Press, having had all but a few snaps of their opener with McNeese State washed away.
The Bulldogs return home with a 34-16 win over Southern Mississippi in the books, and newly-ranked at #25 AP. That’s a change of sorts too since a year ago it took beating the Tigers in their den to push Prescott’s club into the polls. Once in, the ’14 Bulldogs rocketed to the top faster than any squad ever in AP history.
Still it is worth recalling that after a 3-0 start, that was an unranked squad going to Baton Rouge. And, coming off some solid but not special wins against lesser-league opponents.
When the Dogs departed their locker room they were on their way to #1 in both pollings and the conference standings. Prescott still won’t look back at it as an upset, really.
“I knew the team we had last year going into the game. I don’t think anybody on our team was surprised that we won that game. And we should have beat them by more, honestly, without letting them come back like that.”
The nature of this showdown is by Sunday morning somebody is going to have to try a comeback over the rest of the SEC schedule. MSU-LSU is the only Western Division contest of week-two. Yes it is a long season, but Prescott appreciates more than most the value of starting strong.
“I think it kind of dictates your season. You start off 1-0 in the SEC, we’ll be first this week if we do that. If you lose, you’re last. You’ve got to climb back up versus staying in front and controlling your destiny.”
What nobody on this plane controls is weather. While the Bulldogs got their opener in just fine, two hours away in Baton Rouge storms stopped LSU’s debut as it was barely started. Scouting the Tigers just got a lot tougher.
Especially as LSU now has a new defensive coordinator in Ed Orgeron, some new personnel, and no real look at how the parts fit together. For a quarterback, scouting and scheming will be “different” as Prescott said.
“But we’re going to take what we’ve got, make sure we master that. As long as we have that mastered we can change things up during the game with what they’re throwing at us.”
And for the perceived ‘freshness’ advantage LSU may or may not possess, Prescott for his part is glad to have played a real game. Never mind the Bulldogs were not exactly sharp in the opener on offense. Or that Prescott himself was not up to expected standards, over-throwing some receivers and not connecting with others.
Better to expose any issues before conference kickoff, is his opinion.
“I’d rather have played a game. Obviously we got a chance to fix our wrinkles and kinks, knock some of the rust off. Especially me and my passing performance. To get that stuff out of the way and knowing the team we’ve got is a whole lot better I think coming into a game like this.”
Last year’s victory was the first over a LSU team since 1999, and the first in Baton Rouge since 1991. Those are ancient history to even a fifth-year senior like Prescott. The trick now is to put his big win of 2014 in the background and approach the rematch with the same energy and emotion.
For Prescott, intangibles aren’t a problem playing the home-state squad. If winning last year was big, a repeat would be seriously special for this Dog.
“Just being from Louisiana all my friends, high school coaches, everybody were LSU fans. Even some family members, if we’re not playing them’ they’re cheering for LSU. It’s always a fun game, exciting for me and my family and all the Louisiana guys on the team.”