Prescott, Russell get Bulldogs moving early, then stall
STARKVILLE, Miss. — Dan Mullen has said all year long that he has two starting quarterbacks.
But Saturday night, the jumbotron at Davis Wade Stadium didn’t announce a starting quarterback for the Mississippi State coach.
Rather, the man who started under center wasn’t revealed until the first Bulldog offensive possession.
That man was sophomore Dak Prescott, who started the season as Tyler Russell’s backup.
Prescott had started the past three games, as Russell was sidelined after suffering a concussion in Week 1 against Oklahoma State.
The senior Russell did make his way back on the field for the first time since that loss to the Cowboys.
The two signal-callers kept the Bulldogs in the game in the first half, but stumbled in the second half as No. 10 LSU beat MSU 59-26.
“They did a good job,” Mullen said. “It’s good to have two starting quarterbacks, and I think we have two starting quarterbacks. We have guys that can do some good things for us.
“I thought they did a pretty good job, both of them, when they were in the game, made some big plays, made some good checks and made things happen for us. That’s what you want.”
Many might consider the Bulldogs the Northwestern of the Southeastern Conference.
The Wildcats use a two-quarterback system with senior Kain Colter as the runner and junior Trevor Siemian as the passer. The Wildcats make it work, balancing plays for both players.
The Bulldogs have a similar setup. Prescott is considered the runner and Russell the passer, although both have shown they are capable of doing what the other is known for.
For the Bulldogs, having a two-quarterback system is easy because both signal-callers get along.
“Just having confidence in each other, supporting the other guy when he’s in there, backing him up every play, letting him know what you saw when he gets off the field and just being supportive of each other,” Prescott said.
Prescott finished with 103 rushing yards on 12 carries and one score. He completed nine of 20 passes for 106 yards with one interception. Russell completed seven of 11 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
“As the week went on in practice, that became the plan. The plan was to play both of them,” Mullen said.
“I think the importance was getting them both in the flow of the game. Tyler hasn’t played a lot, so we wanted to get him back in the flow of the game. Dak’s been playing well, got to keep him in the flow of the game.”
Mullen used two quarterbacks at Florida when he was the offensive coordinator: Chris Leak and Tim Tebow.
Prescott got things going for the Bulldogs on their opening drive. The Haughton native scrambled away from Tigers defenders and rushed 28 yards on a broken play for the first Bulldog touchdown of the game with 8:42 left in the first quarter.
“I did alright,” Prescott said. “There are things I definitely need to fix and things we can work on, get better as a team and me personally get better at.”
Russell brought the passing game to life when he checked in at the start of the second quarter.
He found Jameon Lewis for a 20-yard passing touchdown and then hit true freshman De’Runnya Wilson for a 59-yard passing scoring to put the Bulldogs up 23-21 midway through the second quarter.
The offense came to a screeching halt in the second half. The Bulldogs got a field goal on their first second half drive, but that was the last time they scored.
Prescott got the majority of the snaps in the third and fourth quarters, but his interception led to a Jeremy Hill touchdown as LSU took a 45-26 lead early in the fourth quarter to put the ballgame out of reach.
“Dak’s feet, on that interception, got a little messed up,” Mullen said.
Russell made an appearance on a third down in the fourth quarter but was sacked. He came back out on the fourth-and-19, but his pass for Joe Morrow was broken up.
Moving forward, the Bulldogs will have two viable options to go to at quarterback. Both have proven they can handle the offense, and both bring a different dynamic to the offense.
“I’ve done it a lot of different ways in a different places,” Mullen said.