September 16, 2013 3:35:55 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen does not believe in the cliche that a quarterback can't lose his job due to a injury.
This is the dilemma of the Bulldogs fifth-year coach this week if fifth-year senior Tyler Russell is medically cleared for contact Saturday as MSU hosts Troy. Russell continues to be a day-by-day monitoring situation and has not been cleared by the MSU medical staff for physical contact. In his place, sophomore Dak Prescott has substituted beautifully for Russell and nearly led MSU to victory in his first career road start at Auburn.
"Anybody can lose their job anytime," Mullen said Monday in his weekly media conference. "I guess that sounds terrible and I have a lot of faith in Tyler, he's won some pretty big games for us and he's our starting quarterback. But in Dak we want to always train multiple starting quarterbacks."
Despite having played multiple quarterbacks in each of his first five seasons at MSU, Mullen stated confidently Monday he's "never had a quarterback controversy in all my years coaching".
"I've never had a tailback controversy, linebacker controversy or any of that," Mullen said. "You do your job when we tell you to run on the field and do it. Perception is always different than reality."
Mullen does however, if Russell is medically cleared this week, have a decision to make between Russell and Prescott.
MSU has currently lost seven of their last eight games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams dating back to the 38-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 27, 2012.
"If we made one play in that (Auburn) game, I guess we have all the answers right?," Mullen said sarcastically. "When you lose, boy, you have no answers and everything is terrible."
MSU's sophomore quarterback finished Saturday evening 15 of 28 for 213 yards in the air but most of his damage was done on the ground. Prescott led MSU in carries (22), yards (133) and touchdowns (2) on the ground, something that MSU has been unable to be successful with as long as Russell is behind center. Prescott was 12 for 19 for 174 yards and three total touchdowns in one half against Alcorn State in the previous week. In his first SEC start, Prescott had those marks beaten early in the third quarter.
Prescott became the first MSU quarterback to account for 200 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in the same game since Chris Relf in 2010.
"I expect (Russell) to be back but whether he is or isn't, I'm going to prepare like I'm the guy and get ready," Prescott said Monday.
Russell was 10 of 16 for 133 yards against OSU before he was forced to leave the game in the fourth quarter due to a concussion. Mullen said Monday he'll have to evaluate how Russell responds in practice after getting medically cleared in order to earn the start Saturday as the Bulldogs host Troy at Davis Wade Stadium (6:38 p.m., FSN South).
"I've always handled that (with) a gut instinct that I usually feel," Mullen said. "I need to see if he is cleared, how is he performing in practice? Is he as sharp as I want him to be when he is cleared?
On Sunday, Mullen clarified the situation with Russell before the Auburn game saying he wasn't medically cleared by a spinal specialist to play with contact last weekend.
"The decision was that Tyler was not cleared for contact," Mullen said. "He was cleared to do stuff but not for contact. We got him with a top spinal doctors in the country and evaluated him right before the game. He said 'hey, I just don't feel comfortable with him going into a game with contact right now'. He's comfortably cleared to run, throw and do some stuff but we're not going to put a young man's health in any sort of danger."
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