September 15, 2013 1:38:09 AM
AUBURN, Ala. -- Mississippi State coaches said all week if Tyler Russell was medically cleared to play, he'd play. They didn't however, say anything about starting.
After being announced by the public announcer as starting and worked out with the first team offense in pre-game warmups, Tyler Russell was suddenly benched in favor of sophomore Dak Prescott. With five minutes left on the pre-game clock, MSU officially announced on Twitter Prescott would be making his second career start in as many weeks and first against a Southeastern Conference opponent.
According to MSU officials knowledge in pre-game, Russell was medically cleared to play in the game after sustaining a concussion in the season-opening loss to then-No. 13 Oklahoma State in Houston. However, MSU coach Dan Mullen said after the 24-20 loss at Auburn Saturday that Russell did not play because "the fact that Tyler was not cleared to play medically, for contact".
Prescott said he was told before the game started that he would be the starting quarterback and gave the impression that it was decision hear despite reports in pre-game to the contrary. When asked what Russell was doing out on the field for pre-game warmups with his pads on, Prescott said he didn't know.
"You tell me," Prescott said in response to Russell warming up.
Russell was not made available to the media as per team media policy that injured players are off limits to interviews.
MSU's sophomore quarterback finished the 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.
"He actually ran it more than I'd like him to at times but they dictated to have him run it and he was successful," Mullen said.
"He made some throws, missed some throws and made some plays out there tonight. The most important thing is we have more film to show him going forward."
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.
"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."
Prescott mostly did his damage in the middle of the field on the zone-read option plays with his right arm and his feet. Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson continued to send his linebackers to horizontally to chase MSU's speed options leaving space open in between the tackles for Prescott to work. The sophomore constantly found receivers, specifically MSU's tall wide receivers in Robert Johnson and Joe Morrow through the holes in the zone defense in the middle of the hashmarks.
However, Auburn's adjustment that included pressure from its linebackers and safeties up the middle caused MSU to be 0 for 7 on third down conversions and eventually lose momentum in the game thanks to its inability to finish drives.
"We just needed to finish some specific plays in the second half and that's why I'm never satisfied with a loss," Prescott said. "There's always something I could've done more as a leader and a quarterback to push this team to a victory.
Nor Mullen and or any MSU officials would comment on the future status of Russell or if Prescott's play in his first SEC start would possibly help make the decision easier in the coming weeks.