Rice head coach David Bailiff (left) and Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen (right) posing with Liberty Bowl trophy Thursday night at media conference. Photo by: Mississippi State athletics
December 12, 2013 7:31:29 PM
STARKVILLE -- After all the injury concerns, especially with his quarterback position, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen joked Thursday that Dak Prescott is "healthy today" but he continues to worry about him doing anything for the rest of the month.
"We've got some time, a lot of practice between now and (the Liberty Bowl) and with how this year has gone...we've got to watch him walking to class taking final exams with all those curbs around campus," Mullen said.
In what his coach called "divine intervention" in the post-game interviews, Mississippi State's sophomore quarterback permanently etched his name in the history and lore of the most important game in the Magnolia state. Prescott went from medically unable to play to rescuing the Bulldogs and becoming the hero for a majority of the 55,113 fans in Starkville.
"I didn't think there was any chance that would be able to play, period," Mullen said after the game. "It was a miracle. I don't know what else to call it."
Down 10-7 with over 11 minutes left in MSU's season, Mullen turned to Prescott, the Bulldogs emotional leader during a tumultuous 2013 season, for what would turn out to be the most remarkable relief effort off the bench in the history of in-state rivalry. In the post-game media conference, Mullen broke into tears when thinking about where Prescott's performance come from mentally and emotionally.
"It was a heroic effort by him to come in that position," Mullen said. "He's as tough as they come in this world. When your quarterback looks you in the eye and says 'give the ball and we're going to score' then that's a pretty easy decision on my part."
Prescott engineered a fourth quarter comeback for the ages in the 17-10 overtime victory over Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 in Southeastern Conference) that culminated with a dramatic three-yard plunge on his classic draw play on fourth down. Prescott, who had sat out the last two games with severe nerve damage to his left shoulder, finished the game with 144 total yards in the final 11 minutes and overtime. Prescott was 11 of 20 for 115 yards passing and the game-winning touchdown run.
"It's been plenty of downs and plenty of ups for me lately and this is certainly one of the best feelings I've ever had," Prescott said. "It was a awesome atmosphere and our team wanted to keep fighting all night. Sometimes you have to just keep fighting."
The Egg Bowl victory on Thanksgiving night was the only MSU game that Rice coach David Bailiff said he's extensively watched but said Thursday he was impressed with the gutsy effort of Prescott in that contest.
"I watched the Egg Bowl and it was an incredible football game," Bailiff said. "To see Dak step onto the field and the enthusiasm that happened on that sideline."
Bailiff, who was named Conference USA coach of the year, said Thursday his program had reached the pinnacle of their season goals by winning its first C-USA league title and qualifying for the 2013 Liberty Bowl (3 p.m., ESPN).
"There's great chemistry right now at Rice because our number one goal was to get to the Liberty Bowl and our second goal was we wanted to lead the world in chest bumps and high fives," Bailiff said.
Here's some of the other items that were brought up during the media conference in Memphis:
- Liberty Bowl executive director Steve Ehrhart reiterated Thursday that cowbells will be permitted to be in the Liberty Bowl stadium but said Southeastern Conference rules will be administered during the contest. Bailiff felt the "ring responsibly" marketing campaign brought on by the SEC cowbell compromise was laughably entertaining.
"They're actually instruments," Mullen said. "Will Ferrell had that proven right? You'll hear a great song out there and the one thing you always know is, sometimes when you listen to music you'll get a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell."
- Rice has won 15 of its last 18 games overall and has a veteran roster with 23 seniors including 19 fifth-year players. Bailiff seemed to bristle at the idea of matching up with a SEC school in the Liberty Bowl on New Year's Eve.
"I think we're a lot more athletic than people realize going into it and so much of it is because of our senior leadership with young men that have invested four or five years into this program," Bailiff said.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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