Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Numbers, Notes, & Casual Comments after Escaping Arkansas

No, this is not a standard Sunday column. Too tired. Satisfied of course, but still tired. Also, chilled from a cold front-row press box seat that showed Arkansas has spent millions decorating their stadium and zilch on window and joint caulk. Which the place needs.

It’s still better than Missouri’s facility though. Along that SEC road trip line, I’m just as glad nothing should take me to or through the state of Arkansas again until 2017. Well other than maybe a return to Omaha? Either way, I’m still deciding if the state of Arkansas is just Missouri Lite, or if Missouri is Arkansas 2.0. Heck, just unify them into one jurisdiction. Then fence it all in…

…unless Arky agrees to let Jak attend the next game there. Seriously, those are people who wear plastic swine on their skulls to games, yet they don’t want a real Dog on the sideline?

*Back to MSU matters. Headed to the locker room, a MSU coach asked if State had ever won at Arkansas. (That should tell fans how much attention coaches pay to most historical data.) I said this was the first time, and that it just happened to follow 2013’s breakthrough first-ever win in the whole danged state.

Has anyone remembered that State now has won four-straight in the series? The only other active MSU win streak is of course over Kentucky, seven years and running.

OK, here’s a harder one: what was the last four-year streak Bulldogs won over a SEC West opponent? Answer: Auburn, 1997-2000. In fact that technically was the ONLY such streak, since the West didn’t come into existence until 1992.

*Most Mississippi State football records, season and especially career, come in two varieties. They show a particular player was very good at the right time of the program; or just reflect longevity.

Then, there’s Dak Prescott.

None deny that Prescott came along at the perfect program-point, when the right coach was in charge and a competitive roster assembled. And he’s enjoyed a lengthy career, not just as full-time starter in 2014-15 but with plenty snaps as the backup, alternate, and replacement.

But. Prescott changes every measure. Here is a quarterback who combines simple greatness with perfect timing and longevity on the job. That is why Prescott now stands unique in ‘modern’ Mississippi State football history, however one chooses to define ‘modern’. Because there aren’t many left who saw the only Bulldog who can honestly be considered alongside Prescott. And when Jackie Parker played it was a different game, a different world.

This doesn’t take away a thing from the man regarded, up to this fall, as Mississippi State’s greatest Dog ever. A Southern sports legend writer, assembling the SEC’s half-century team in the early 80s, said if he had to have any one conference player get the ball and score a touchdown for him, it would have been Parker. If you have any idea how Alabama/LSU/Tennessee/Georgia oriented all league media was back then, you could understand how surprising a source this statement came from.

To be clear, I doubt when/if the SEC commemorates a second 50 year team in 2032, that Prescott will make that list. I don’t care, either.

I will say that we are about to watch the best Bulldog of our and probably any era step on Scott Field for the last time this Saturday. Don’t miss it.

*By now adding records to his list isn’t easy. Prescott already owns all the season marks worth having for a quarterback, and (as of now) 38 total game, season, and career. I’m still agog that I, little old me, after all these years saw a Bulldog quarterback throw for 500-plus yards. It made the miserable drive to and fro worth it.

And accounting for seven touchdowns in a single game, no not against some visiting cupcake but a SEC West peer? Sure, TV offers a better view of the specific action and I’m sure y’all enjoyed it that way. But…this could well end up another ‘I Was There’ moment in my own MSU memory bank. That game pass is being saved, of course.

By the way, only nine SEC players have had seven-TD games, and without looking it up I have to think at least a couple used overtimes to get there. Which is why I think counting OT stats is stupid, a lecture for another time. Dak did it in regulation. So of course did Arkansas’ Brandon Allen. I mean, how tough could it be to tie a SEC record in a losing cause? What an amazing ‘tennis match’ between those two triggermen. What a comment on what SEC football has become, too.

*Just for the official record, Prescott now is alone in fourth place in SEC touchdowns-responsible, a statistical category quarterbacks own. He’ll probably finish there too, since at 107 he’s 15 back of #3 Dany Wuerffel. Never mind Aaron Murray’s 137, and that Tebow guy’s 145.

Big deal, he’s accounted for 100 touchdowns at Mississippi State. We may never see the like again…and I’m rather proud to remind that I’ve been present for every single six-pointer Prescott has produced. Yeah it’s a job, but this makes it a pleasure.

*Also for the record, Prescott went to Fayetteville trying to become the seventh FBS-level player to rush for 40 touchdowns and throw for 50. Hah. He’s now just the fourth player with 40/60!

*Let’s not overlook his most productive partners in this pitch-and-catch equation. Prescott and De’Runnya Wilson became the best touchdown-tandem ever at MSU, snapping their tie of 17 touchdown connections shared by Tyler Russell-to-Chad Bumphis. The current duo now have 18 hook-ups for touchdowns.

I will not diminish what Russell and Bumphis achieved a bit. Remember that they worked in offenses designed around rushing first, and passing was secondary; compared to the current scheme that throws first, second, and third. But at the same time, Prescott has a great variety of teammates to target compared to previous years. Or decades. That he and Wilson have found a special scoring relationship just shows how, well, special Dak ‘n Bear are going about their business.

*Then again, Prescott and Fred Ross aren’t a shabby pair either. Ross has been catching balls at a frantic pace all season but until October didn’t have a touchdown. Now he’s got four for the year, two last night. Let’s look at another measure: in Wilson and Ross, State has two 1,000-yard career receivers in the same lineup, and both are underclassmen. THAT demands research to see if it’s happened here before?

*Strange point: State won a high-scoring game without benefitting from a turnover or kick return play of any sort. Everything was earned the hard way.

*I will confess having gotten a tad critical of State’s kickoff return game (re: last week’s Dawghouse griping). Well, the coaches proved me wrong (again) and changed return men in the third quarter. Malik Dear rewarded the switch with a 26-yard return and gained yards after contact, something lacking up to now. It was either break clear or go down soon.

That said, I tip the cap to Brandon Holloway’s contributions in the regular offense. I wasn’t alone thinking the 160-or-so-pound back might find Arkansas an advantageous matchup in the passing game. He definitely did with 101 yards on just four catches, including that excellent 38-yard play on a backfield catch that saw Holloway read his blocking rightly and find the end zone track.

But I can’t ignore 63 straight rushing yards on 14 carries. Sure, he was much better angling outside than trying to crash the middle, a sore point in the play calling maybe. But yards is yards and Arkansas did have to respect it, which freed Dak from a fair bit of initial pass rush pressure.

Sigh, though. What would this offense do with one of, any of Mullen’s previous big-play backs? Ohhh, for a Boobie or Vick to keep defenses frozen while Prescott picks his shots…

*Another kudos (kudo?). I confess it wasn’t until the second State series I checked the offensive line and saw Elgton Jenkins starting. True, he has a start to his credit already, against Troy. But that was at left tackle. He started this SEC game at right tackle and to my informal eye played very well. Justin Senior was there, and cleared to play we were told. Jenkins kept him resting for another week, though there was a bad moment when left tackle Rufus Jenkins went to the turf for a minute in the third quarter. Big sigh of relief, he was OK and finished the game.

*Trying to find something to snap on the cel-cam, I noticed a Dog and Hog talking. Then, realized it was Chris Jones and Hunter Henry. That was irresistible and I tweeted it out this evening upon return to town.

They’ll meet again in the NFL of course. Wait, you say, aren’t both juniors? Yep, and it’s a rare State soul who doesn’t believe Jones will go for the draft next spring. Rightly so, he’s done his duty here. I commented to Mullen in the interview room that despite modest stats (three tackles, one for loss, no sacks) it looked like Jones played the best game of his season if not career. Mullen agreed, which counts for something I reckon. I simply can’t relate to fans who consider Jones’ year a disappointment. He’s been a beast in November in the middle of everything and only sheer escapibility by Allen kept him from scoring sacks. Plural.

I’ve no idea what Henry intends of course, and maybe I’m just hoping. But he’s got nothing left to prove at this level as a receiver. I am not at all a Cowboys fan, but as Jason Witten is getting up there…here is his current college counterpart as both a big-play and possession receiver allllll over the field. And yes, I saw Witten play State. Henry is the first I’ve been willing to compare to the former Vol as a SEC tight end the last 30 years. Kids, google ‘Ozzie Newsome’…

*No, I was NOT trying to get on TV last night. I was maneuvering for some sort of angle to snap Mullen and Dr. Jerry P talking, and there was a scrum of folk on the other side of ESPN cameras.

*Having hit the road about 9:30 today, I didn’t learn the updated poll standings until later. State is back in the top 25 again, at #23 AP. I’d expect the Dogs also to get back in the CFP rankings Tuesday evening for what it’s worth.

No, I’m not of a Sunday mood after all the travel, not to mention working until about 4:00am on the sidebar and site issues, to look ahead to Saturday’s showdown. I do know from memory this will be consecutive years both Egg Bowl participants are ranked, which has to be a first. Gimme a day to settle into one more game-week cycle, then Steve and I will start talking Egg Bowl business.

*By the way, there is a SEC Network ‘rewind’ special on the 1999 Egg Bowl. Campus interviews with Wayne Madkin, Eugene Clinton, Jim Ellis, and some guy whose name evades me at the moment discussed that remarkable evening on Scott Field. I was sent an advance link to it last week but haven’t watched, was too busy.

Interesting, that the SECN folk chose that game to kick off this year’s rivalry-game week in the league. But I doubt I stayed up to watch this first showing as a post-travel pizza is sure to knock me out early.

*Bowl spekalatin’? Hooo boy, that is so fluid in the SEC right now that I could come up with scenarios sending State everywhere from Orlando to Shreveport. Fortunately, not Birmingham. Let’s just say that based on recent showings, Florida could easily lose their next two games and leave just one conference club in the New Years Six picture. LSU is already out, and Georgia won’t improve its place. But as has been discussed before, the pecking order may not be so much selection by bowls as assignments by the SEC with factors of ticket sales, show-up attendance, and TV markets in three-way conflict at most bowls.

However…a strange notion occurs. Say Florida, LSU, Georgia, and the Egg Bowl winner all have nine wins, and thus three losses. The happiest fan base of the bunch will come from, you got it, our state. And there happens to be this here bowl in the neighboring state that is part of the NY6 system and normally needs a SEC participant.

Right. That one.

Likely, no. For one thing there will almost certainly be enough two-loss or even one-loss programs from P5 leagues left to scatter among New Orleans, Atlanta, Tucson, and Pasadena after the Cotton and Orange have their four finalists for the CFP assigned. But, if upsets occur this coming weekend and in conference title games…who knows?

A three-loss SEC West squad finishing on a two-win streak and with a delighted fan base willing to follow the program’s greatest living player to his final appearance could make a mighty marketing program. OK, it’s a long shot. I’m just saying…that Sugar Bowl bet Steve and I have might yet come to pass after all.

*Oh, and almost forgot; State has now won 20 straight games against unranked opponents.

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