Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

State Goes Airborne With Ground Game Stalled; Kicking Carousel; And More MSU-Ellany

He won’t celebrate statistics. Dak Prescott is way, far beyond such a point. Winning is all that matters to Mississippi State’s quarterback. Still in the interest of history, Prescott made more of it in week-two.

With LSU cutting out most of the ground game, Mississippi State had to go to the air much more often than intended. Or wanted. The result was 52 official passes for Prescott, most ever for him in any game; and a personal-best 34 completions. The net gain was 335 yards, not close to his 453 in the Orange Bowl.

In the process Prescott leaped from third to first in career completions, jumping by both Kevin Fant and finally Wayne Madkin for top spot. Prescott now has had 474 of his throws caught, giving him seven MSU career marks now.

He added a touchdown pass to the career record set only last week (now 44 and counting). And by running the ball in himself Prescott has 218 career points, tied for second-most in MSU history with kicker Brian Hazelwood. Only Boobie Dixon scored more, 276.

Prescott now needs just 182 passing yards next week to break Madkin’s career record.

Oh, and the 34 completions was most ever by a MSU team, topping the 33 caught throws in the Orange Bowl.

GROUND OUT: However, these single-game numbers were a direct reflection of why Mississippi State ultimately lost. Prescott was passing because the ground game was a no-go.

The Bulldog offense finished with 43 net yards on 26 rushes. Now, three sacks of Prescott and some tackles for losses of other Dogs cost 33 yards off the gains. Still LSU shut down the ground game consistently. The irony is how in last year’s victory the Bulldogs got big running plays, including 56 on a career-defining ramble by Prescott for the key touchdown.

Not this night. LSU was not going to let the quarterback keep and carry if possible. Prescott ran just seven true rushes and was sacked three other times, for a net-loss of 19 yards.

Prescott wasn’t looking to run a lot in the first place. When he did, room wasn’t there as LSU had the line stuffed and enough speed to get to the corners. The touchdown came in goal-line when Tigers crashed the center and let Prescott bounce outside against a single defender.

Otherwise, though, he was going to throw the ball instead of carry it himself. “My ideas are really just to scramble when I don’t have my reads there anymore. I’m trying to look down the field, get to my last progression if I have to.”

NOT ROCKNE: Give Dan Mullen credit. He didn’t try to claim any for his team’s second-half improvements. Not in strategy, which the coach and players agreed stayed the basic same with minor tweaks.

Nor in speechifying, either. Mullen didn’t rah-rah his team, or peel the paint. His locker room orders?

“Just to relax. To be honest that was our big adjustment. Take a deep breath, breathe out, and relax. A really inspiring halftime speech, right there.”

While that won’t do much to build any reputation for ‘adjustments’ Mullen saw no need for chalkboard or chatter at that point. He saw a squad that was trying to play perfectly, which is never good; but also a bunch of Bulldogs looking for someone, anyone else, to make the game-changing play.

So besides the breathe in/breathe out, Mullen told everyone “go make the plays we expect you to make and don’t wait. And I thought we did that.

“Look at the second half, everybody started making plays. Whether it’s the O-line, receivers, tight ends, running backs, everybody started making plays. The quarterback, even. So I guess that was pretty big, inspiring speech for them.”

There was method to the mantra though. Maybe from the seats State didn’t look up-tight. From the sideline things looked clearer to Mullen.

“There was some hesitation the first halftime almost like we were trying not to makes mistakes instead of going out there and playing.” Once the Dogs did come to play, the game changed. Leaving all to ask, what might have been had State arrived on the field relaxed and ready at kickoff?

KICKING CAROUSEL: PK Westin Graves matched his output of week-one, making a pair of field goals for the first six State points in week-two. They came from a career-best field goal of 43 yards in the second quarter, and a 24-yarder in the third period. That makes him 4-of-4 on the season.

But, with the game on the line and ball on the 34-yard line, it wasn’t Graves lining up a field goal to win it. P Devon Bell was handed the challenge. A worse one too, as on third down-and-10 at the 29 State didn’t get the snap off in time. Mullen admitted that selecting, signaling, and lining the pass play up took too long once he wanted to add motion, which would have helped get better matchups in the short range.

Bell’s difficulties got compounded further as LSU got a timeout called just as State was snapping. Bell more or less went through with the kick which was short and left. Another timeout later, he hit one that was closer but right.

What difference five yards on the penalty, much less completing a pass to the 25 or so, would have meant to a kicker is pure speculation. As to who would have kicked it?

“From where we were, Devon Bell would still have been kicking,” Mullen said. “But if we get five or six more yards, it’s right there in between those edges. If we have the ball inside the 25, that’s a pretty high-percentage field goal. As far as outside, not so much. So that’s all on me.”

*Somewhat forgotten at the dramatic end was how kicking helped dig the original hole. State’s second series ended with only a 33-yard punt, just short of mid-field, setting up LSU’s first touchdown drive. That was followed by a 36-yard punt by P Logan Cooke from the 10-yard line, after a sack of Prescott. The Tigers again started on State’s side of the 50 and scored a touchdown.

MSU-ELLANEOUS: WR De’Runnya Wilson has caught touchdown passes in all three of his games against LSU. His scoring grab this time was his 13th touchdown reception, moving the junior up to a tie for fifth all-time with Jerry Bouldin and Mardye McDole…After sitting out last week’s game, CB Taveze Calhoun returned to action on the second series…DE A.J. Jefferson surpassed last week’s seven tackles with eight in game-two…LB Richie Brown has recorded double-digit tackles in both games since becoming a starter this season…There were no turnovers of any sort in this game…True freshman S Mark McLaurin played on special teams, the fourth 2015 rookie to get in action this season…Redshirt freshmen DT Cory Thomas and DT Braxton Hoyette also made their debuts…Redshirt juco OC Jocquell Johnson played, too, on kicking teams…Since his 2010 team broke into the polls, Dan Mullen’s squads have played 27 games with a ranking. They are now 15-12…The crowd of 62,531 was second-largest ever at Davis Wade Stadium.

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