Nov 28, 2013; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott (15) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during overtime against the Mississippi Rebels at Davis Wade Stadium. Mississippi State Bulldogs defeat the Mississippi Rebels with a score of 17-10 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
Dak Prescott had a November that he would both like to forget and remember for the rest of his life.
After the Auburn game, it was apparent which of the two very talented quarterbacks that Mississippi State had on its roster gave the team the best chance to win. That was Dak Prescott, the one who was far more mobile and reminiscent of the quarterbacks that Mullen had coached in years past.
The one thing that many fans knew about, but often forgot about as we cheered our beloved Bulldogs on, was that Prescott’s mother was in a battle for her life with cancer. It’s easy to forget that the players we love have lives that exist off the field. Mississippi State fans were reminded of that early in November.
Mississippi State entered the month of November 4-3. They had just come away with two very underwhelming performances against Bowling Green and Kentucky, despite the fact that the Bulldogs won both games. Couple those performances with a big victory by the Ole Miss Rebels over LSU, and the angst among the fans was at an all time high.
To make matters worse, the first game of the month was against the South Carolina Gamecocks, a team that was riding the emotional high of a thrilling come from behind victory over eventual SEC East winner Missouri. It was a game that many thought the Bulldogs could win since the Gamecocks had a reputation for following up big wins with disappointing losses.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the Gamecocks would go on to win the game, due in large part to Prescott having his worst game of the year. He threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles. Five turnovers total and anyone who watched the game would tell you that he seemed very out of sync the entire day.
We all woke up the next day to discover that Dak’s mother had succumbed to cancer that night. How much of an impact that had on his performance I don’t know, but it obviously had to be weighing heavily on him throughout the game. There was an outpouring of sympathy from fans across the SEC. The team went to Louisiana the following Wednesday to attend his mother’s funeral and prepared for their upcoming game with Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel.
Prescott didn’t get the start, but he did get most of the playing time. He followed up his worst game with an inspired performance, keeping the Bulldogs in striking distance almost by himself. The Bulldogs would not be able to keep pace and lost the game 51-41. To make matters worse, Prescott would suffer a nerve injury at the end of the game.
The nerve injury led to some mass hysteria among the Bulldog fans, especially after Prescott would not even dress for the Alabama game. Many speculated that his season was over, and some were suggesting that his career was done. Prescott was forced to sit out the Arkansas game as well, one which saw the Bulldogs pull out their first win in the state of Arkansas in overtime 24-17, leaving the possibility of bowl eligibility open. That would set up Prescott’s finest moment as a Bulldog to date.
The shortened week before the Egg Bowl, Dan Mullen had reiterated that Prescott would not play again this season unless the team made it to a bowl game. Couple that with Tyler Russell being listed as “day to day” and there was a high amount of uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position. Most believed, and were correct in doing so, that true freshman Damian Williams would be the signal caller against Ole Miss.
When the game started, there were a few surprises. Despite being listed day to day, Russell went threw the Dawg Walk with his arm in a sling and would not dress for the game. Prescott, despite being list as “out” had been cleared the day of the game to play by a doctor brought in from Nashville. Mullen would describe his change in health status as “miraculous”. Even though he was cleared to play, Mullen had every intention on giving the ball to Williams and putting the game in his hands. Mullen wanted desperately to not risk further injury to his sophomore quarterback.
The game went on in what was mostly a battle of punts. Ole Miss took the lead on the opening drive of the second half with a field goal, 10-7. It would stay that way until the fourth quarter. After Williams made his only mistake of the game with an ill advised pass that was intercepted, Mullen turned to his starter. Prescott entered the game and the team picked up a first down, but the drive stalled out. What was apparent though was the spark that the team got just from seeing him out on the field. The next possession, Prescott led the team down the field and Evan Sobiesk tied the game on a field goal. Prescott would lead the team to field goal range in the closing seconds, but Sobiesk was unable to convert the second time around.
Mississippi State had the ball on the opening possession of overtime. Prescott guided the team down to the four yard line where the Bulldogs faced 4th and 2. Mullen knew he wanted the ball in the hands of Prescott. Denying popular logic, Prescott kept the ball on a quarterback draw and lunged into the end zone to take the lead. A Bo Wallace fumble forced by Nickoe Whitley into the end zone would seal the Bulldogs victory.
It was a month of highs and lows for Prescott. He overcame the turmoil and adversity and persevered to lead the Bulldogs to their most important victory when they needed him most. That gives the Bulldog fans a lot to look forward to in the next two years.