November 10, 2013 1:17:35 AM
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen became emotional Saturday night after his team's 51-41 loss to No. 11 Texas A&M, but it had nothing to do with what happened on the field.
Mullen called the performance of Dak Prescott "incredible" after the sophomore quarterback accounted for 303 yards against Texas A&M days after burying his mother in his hometown of Haughton, La.
"To go through what he had to go through and come out and perform the way he did is so incredible," Mullen said. "I'm so proud of that amazing young man beyond being just a football player. Most parents would be proud if their kids grew up that way."
Prescott had two touchdown passes to give him 19 for this season. He moved into a tie with Vick Ballard's 2010 mark for the fourth most on the Bulldogs' single-season record list.
Prescott's mother, Peggy, lost her long battle with colon cancer last Sunday. Dak Prescott left the MSU program last week to be with his family to help prepare funeral proceedings that took place Wednesday.
On the night of his mother's funeral and burial services, Prescott returned to practice in Starkville and began to look over the preparations for the No. 11 Aggies.
"He had a lot of family come out here and support him in this game, and he's going to have to go through a lot of tough things," Mullen said. "He's also got to walk out of the locker room tonight and his mom won't be there. That'll be another one. We're here for him."
Mullen said Thursday on his weekly radio show that Prescott would play, but the MSU staff decided to start senior Tyler Russell at quarterback. Prescott made his debut on the Bulldogs' third possession that resulted in a 51-yard touchdown run by Josh Robinson on the drive's first play.
"These kids are like sons to me, and when they have to go through something that bad it just wears on you as a coach," Mullen said. "We don't want to see our kids go through the personal losses like that."
With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Prescott took a solid shot from defensive back Tony Hurd Jr., and to took himself out of the game while holding his left arm. Prescott was holding his non-throwing arm as he left the stadium with the team following the loss. Mullen said after the game he hadn't met with the training staff before the media conference and had no additional information on Prescott's injury.
MSU senior LB Skinner ruled out with neck sprain
MSU announced less than a hour before kickoff it would be without senior linebacker Deontae Skinner, its leading tackler, due to a severe neck sprain.
"We love Deontae and wish he would've been out there with us, but I think we should've rallied around him today since he couldn't play with a injury," MSU junior linebacker Matthew Wells said.
Skinner had five tackles last week in a 34-16 loss at No. 12 South Carolina.
In the travel list submitted Saturday to the media, Skinner was on the active roster and was scheduled to travel on the flight Friday with the team but was held back in Starkville following the injury. Skinner was using his Twitter account, Dskinner_11, during the game Saturday afternoon.
Sumlin denies USC speculation after victory.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin had to remind the media after the game he doesn't talk about off-the-field issues.
The Los Angeles Daily Times reported Friday that according to sources, Southern California hopes to hire its next football coach in December and Sumlin has emerged as the top target.
"I thought we talked about this four weeks ago," Sumlin said when asked about the USC rumors. "We're not talking about that ever. Same deal."
Sumlin has won 31 games the past two and a half seasons at Houston and Texas A&M. He also is mentioned as a possible candidate at Texas and is one of the hottest names in college football. Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith has denied twice in the past month he interviewed with USC. Meanwhile, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden hasn't acknowledged interviewing any candidates for the job.
Sumlin, Gruden, Boise State coach Chris Petersen, Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, and Denver Broncos interim coach Jack Del Rio are the most frequent names associated with USC. Current Trojans coach and former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron also will be considered, but he isn't expected to get the job.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.