STARKVILLE — Dan Mullen knew his freshman quarterback would be exhausted, so after the open scrimmage at Davis Wade Stadium Friday night, he didn’t need statistics to prove the important result.
The Mississippi State football coach knew Dak Prescott had survived the most work behind center in his early college career.
“He got a ton of reps so it was a great opportunity for him, especially going in the stadium,” Mullen said. “He gets to see how much he really has to work on, how many reps he needs before he’s ready to go play in a game.”
Through the first 20 offensive possessions, Prescott was 32-of-46 for 375 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
“He’s such a high-energy guy (that) he got very motivated,” Mullen said. “He works really hard, wants to be good. So it’s just going to be a lot of teaching for him. He has the want-to, he has the ability, the toughness, he likes to be a leader out there on the field. Now he just has to get the skill all down.”
Prescott struggled in the beginning of the scrimmage with consecutive drives ending with a sack and an interception to freshman defensive back Dee Arrington before being able to generate more than one first down.
“My teammates got me calmed down by just telling me I would be all right and that they were with me no matter what,” Prescott said.
After the first hour of play, senior starting quarterback Chris Relf was pulled from action, so Prescott was sent in to run the offense for both the first and second string offenses of the MSU depth chart.
“I feel like I’ve got some things down but still need to sit back and learn from (Relf and sophomore quarterback Tyler Russell) in order to keep getting better with it,” Prescott said. “I like to get everybody going and I think I got a little too hyped for this.”
Russell, who has started four games behind center this season, suffered an undisclosed injury to his left knee after Tuesday’s practice. Russell was not active while still wearing the same long black brace on his left leg that Mullen referred to as “the immobilizer” Thursday.
“The plan I think is he’s going to practice Sunday and Tuesday to go full,” Mullen said. “(Saturday) he’ll put the immobilizer on and just throw routes and that stuff (in) seven-on-seven. But team stuff, talking to the trainers, they want to go Sunday, a day-off and just put the immobilizer back on and let it heal again on Monday.”
The scrimmage was more like the practice time of the current week meaning many veterans were held out of action. Johnthan Banks, Cam Lawrence, Marcus Green, Fletcher Cox, Vick Ballard, Wade Bonner and Charles Mitchell were among the players running wind sprints instead of participating in the two-hour workout.
Prescott’s first encounter with the end zone at the MSU home stadium was with his feet on a 11-yard touchdown scramble that allowed the Haughton, La., native to settle down in what he called “his first experience under the lights.”
“I’ll probably go back to running scout team now but it’s exciting to think about competing with Tyler for reps in the spring and next season,” Prescott said.
After the touchdown run, Prescott found his two favorite targets on the evening in receivers Jameon Lewis and Joe Morrow. Lewis would haul in a six-yard strike for scores in back-to-back drives.
“I just kept telling guys tonight to keep having fun because that’s what this was all about for us young guys tonight,” Lewis said. “I know (Prescott) was tired at the end but we all kept telling him to keep going hard all the way through.”
Lewis, a 5-foot-9 speedster from Tylertown, had spent most of his redshirt freshman season on punt return duty and second string while he still understands his new college position of wide receiver. Lewis had six catches for 78 yards and the touchdown.
“This week was all about the young players figuring out our weaknesses and strengths and mastering what we don’t do well,” Lewis said. “I’m so excited to play in my first bowl game.”
Morrow, the former four-star recruit from Ocean Springs, had six catches for 118 yards.
“You’re not going to take a year of eligibility (from Morrow) away to get 40 plays during a season,” Mullen said. “It’s good for him to see himself out there and he’s starting to develop, and we think he’s going to be a great playmaker here for us next year.”
Mullen said the Bulldogs are in ‘stage two’ of the bowl preparation process that includes the beginning of their specific gameplan for the 2011 Music City Bowl against Wake Forest.
“All of this is done,” Mullen said. “We’re not going to watch it, we won’t end up watching (the film) until January. Late February will probably be the time we watch this scrimmage. Everything from here on out is game week.”