September 16, 2013 10:50:42 AM
Matthew Stevens - email@example.com
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen clarified his quarterback situation Sunday by stating senior Tyler Russell still isn't cleared for contact.
In his weekly teleconference, Mullen said the Bulldogs' fifth-year senior quarterback has been given medical authority to do anything on the field except participate in physical contact.
"We got him with a top spinal doctors in the country and he evaluated (Russell) right before the game (Saturday against Auburn)," Mullen said Sunday. "He said, 'Hey, I just don't feel comfortable with him going into a game with contact.' 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."
After Russell was announced as the starting quarterback by the public announcer as starting and he worked out with the first-team offense in pregame warmups, MSU announced on Twitter that sophomore Dak Prescott would make his second career start in as many weeks, and first against a Southeastern Conference opponent. Russell suffered a concussion in MSU's season-opening loss to then-No. 13 Oklahoma State in Houston. Prescott was 15 of 28 for 213 yards and led MSU in carries (22), yards (133), and touchdowns (two) on the ground in a 24-20 loss to Auburn.
"I wanted to make sure he was warming up and ready to go," Mullen said while insisting the decision wasn't a form of gamesmanship to try to fool Auburn. "I know the assumption is they don't know who the starting quarterback is. Dak knew he wouldn't be told til game day, but he had to prepare to be the starting since last Sunday, and he'll prepare to be the starter today.
"I thought Dak did pretty well. He missed a couple of things here and there. I thought he played with a lot of poise and never was overwhelmed by any of the situations he was in."
Prescott leads MSU in rushing yards with a 5.06 yards per carry average.
"The middle of the field and the ground game for myself comes with the explosiveness we have in the sweep plays we run with the backs and receivers," Prescott said. "Eventually I'm the only once left uncovered out there, and then I'm able to get a big gain."
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 denied a lack of consistency at the quarterback has hampered MSU (1-2) in the first month of the season.
"Injuries hurt because you've got good players not playing, but that's part of the game," Mullen said. "I'm sure all teams deal with injuries. Maybe us more than some, especially with all the critical injuries we've had at critical positions. Quarterback is one. Secondary is another where we're coming in with such a young core and one of our three veteran leaders have suffered a injury. That hurts you more than other things, but again, that's part of the game."