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Waiting game over for Prescott

 

Mississippi State University quarterback Dak Prescott threw his first touchdown for the Bulldogs on Saturday in a 41-31 victory against the University of Tennessee at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville.

Mississippi State University quarterback Dak Prescott threw his first touchdown for the Bulldogs on Saturday in a 41-31 victory against the University of Tennessee at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville. Photo by: David Allen Williams/Special to The Dispatch  Buy this photo.

 

Matthew Stevens

 

STARKVILLE --┬áDak Prescott's first college touchdown pass was a five-week bluff by the Mississippi State University football team's coaching staff. 

 

MSU coach Dan Mullen admitted Sunday in his weekly media teleconference with local reporters that his staff had been "waiting" to make the call on a fake quarterback draw by Prescott to allow a receiver to slip into the open for a score. 

 

Prescott had been used primarily as a runner out of the shotgun and under center in short-yardage situations. The redshirt freshman, who is the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster behind junior Tyler Russell, entered No. 19 MSU's game against the University of Tennessee on Saturday with 16 runs and six passing attempts. He finished with two rushes for 2 yards and 2 of 2 for 17 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Green in the second quarter to help MSU beat Tennessee 41-31 at Davis Wade Stadium. 

 

MSU's usage of Prescott, a 230-pounder from Haughton, La., was a primary reason Tennessee committed all 11 of its defenders to the line of scrimmage. The Volunteers (3-3, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) were all coming forward when Prescott faked a run after taking the snap out of the shotgun and then backpedalled to throw a play-action pass over the middle to a wide open Green. 

 

To MSU coach Dan Mullen, Prescott's statistics were a part of the plan to make teams think MSU had little confidence in Prescott's throwing ability. It turns out that isn't the case. 

 

"I'm sure I get all kinds of e-mails and Twitter about whether I'm a smart coach or not just because if Dak is in we're just going to pound it up the middle," Mullen said. "Sometimes we do, but there's other things that go along with, and it's about when you call it is important." 

 

Prescott's pass to Green gave MSU a 10-7, and was part of a passing attack that accumulated 308 yards. 

 

"We had some missed assignments and a few breakdowns here and there," Tennessee junior safety Byron Moore said. "We just have to clean some things up." 

 

If Prescott's touchdown pass looked familiar, it had the feel of what Mullen did at the University of Florida with quarterback Tim Tebow. When Tebow, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy, was a freshman at Florida, he split time with veteran Chris Leak. The famous Jump Pass play with Tebow created a lot confusion for defenses near the goal line, and Prescott's play had all the elements of that play except the 6-foot-2 Prescott didn't have to leap over the line to complete the pass. 

 

"(MSU offensive coordinator) Les (Koenning) called that play at just the right time, (and) I thought our coaches did a great job in this game, too," Mullen said. "Les called a great game in keeping everything balanced and keeping points on the board early, even when we were slumping he was able to break us out of that slump." 

 

Green, a sixth-year senior, caught a career-high six passes for a season-best 71 yards and a career-best tying two touchdowns Saturday. He now 13 catches and five touchdowns this season. 

 

Prescott continues to get snaps at practice when MSU installs its game plan in case Russell suffers an injury. 

 

"He knows he is going to get in the game and has to prepare for the whole game plan in case he has to be the guy," Mullen said in September. "It can give him confidence as we go because now he's played in some big moments in an SEC guy. As the season goes forward, it will allow him to grow how we need him to grow." 

 

Prescott has 18 carries for 54 yards and is 4-for-8 for 54 yards this season. 

 

"I didn't feel like I was very good throwing the ball against Jackson State in the opener, so when I was given a passing play I wanted to make the most of it," Prescott said in September.

 

 

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