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Quarterback shuffle works for MSU


Matthew Stevens



STARKVILLE -- The quarterback controversy is over at Mississippi State. 


One throws the football and the other runs with it. Enough said. 


Dak Prescott's running ability and Tyler Russell's right arm helped MSU amass 422 total yards on a frustrating Saturday night in which MSU dealt with several injuries on the offensive line. 


"It doesn't really matter who is our quarterback," Russell said. "Coach Mullen calls in a play and we execute it." 


MSU utilized its quarterback system to engineer a 21-20 victory against Bowling Green. Instead of not announcing a starting quarterback like it did last week prior to the game against No. 10 LSU, MSU officials put both players on the video board before kickoff. Both players traded turns saying the other's name. 


"We moved the ball well," Prescott said. "We did some good things, but we also shot ourselves in the foot on some things. We just have to get better." 


Russell, who made his first start since the season opener against Oklahoma State, completed 12 passes to move ahead of Derrick Taite into third place on the program's career pass completions chart with 368. Wayne Madkin owns the school record with 462. Russell accomplished the feat in 19 starts. 


"I felt comfortable with the game plan and confident with my teammates abilities early on to go make plays," Russell said. "Our ability to go get points early in the game was key but had some silly mistakes that took points off the board." 


Prescott played the second and third series. After throwing a interception into double coverage that led to a Bowling Green field goal, Prescott took the next snap 75 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest offensive and scoring play for by a MSU player this season. 


With just eight carries in the first half, Prescott became the 24th MSU player with three or more 100-yard rushing games. Prescott entered the game tied for first among Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks in touchdowns scored (seven) and second in rushing touchdowns (six). Prescott trails only John Bond, Bruce Threadgill, and Chris Relf in career contests rushing for 100 or more yards. 


Mullen continued to change quarterbacks every other series until he pulled Russell for a fourth-and-1 situation near midfield to run Prescott up the middle. Prescott finished the drive for his second rushing touchdown to put MSU up 21-10. 


It was clear MSU's plan was to have Russell pepper the secondary, which came in allowing 193.7 yards per game. When Bowling Green (5-2) made adjustments, MSU went with Prescott on quarterback draws and designed runs to exploit its size advantage in between the hashmarks. 


Mullen cleaned out all the tricks in playbook Saturday with a reverse to Jameon Lewis that had a pass option. He then had Devon Bell execute a punt and had nine players catch a pass. 


"I felt like we were moving the ball well all game, but we had a lot of penalties and a lot of missed tackles," Mullen said. "I wanted to keep taking chances in some instances, but then you guys would've said, 'Wow, what a dumb move that would've been.' Unless I'd have converted, then I would've been a genius." 


Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.



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