Still Prescott was all smiles in postgame…because he knew mother Peggy Prescott is smiling down upon her son. Or as Coach Dan Mullen said, "It's hard to believe there wasn't any divine intervention out there on that field today."
November 2013 has been anything but divine for Prescott. His mother passed of cancer as the son returned from the South Carolina game. And when Dak, short for Dakota, suffered a ‘burner' late in what had been an impressive effort at Texas A&M it appeared his season was finished.
But literally minutes before the Egg Bowl, where his teammates were about to play for bowl eligibility, Prescott was cleared for contact by physicians. His coach took a lot longer to give the go-ahead. Yet with Mississippi State trailing and the offense sputtering, unable to support a marvelous defensive performance, Mullen made his move.
"He sat there for a while when I told him was ready," Prescott related. "I was like Coach, I can do it, I said I'll be smart, just let me go play. He sat there again and I was like c'mon coach I'm good, let's go, let's go. He said alright, let's do this and he let me go."
In his defense, and to his credit, Mullen had resisted temptation to risk his best run/throw threat against an Ole Miss defense which Prescott was perfectly suited to beat. For one thing, Prescott had gotten a bare handful of Tuesday practice snaps and then only to as Mullen said "keep him feeling positive and good about himself." His throwing arm wasn't involved and Prescott could do some tossing.
Also as he said, "I haven't gotten many reps but I felt good. I went through all the reps mentally. I think that helped a lot."
But the damaged nerve still left limited range-of-motion on the left side, another issue entirely. Dr. Alan Sills and trainer Justin Gremillion did all they could and still none dared guess Prescott would be game-ready by Egg Bowl. A holiday bowl was the best bet, yet without Prescott—and with senior QB Tyler Russell sidelined entirely by a second shoulder separation—the odds were long.
"You can talk to my wife, I said to her today there's no chance he's playing," Mullen said. Once at the stadium the talk turned. Sills had said Prescott would be lucky to play in a bowl game, but in the locker room he told Mullen he'd never seen this sort of fast recovery before. "He says it must be a miracle and he said I'm going to clear him to go play in the game," said Mullen.
The early arrivers at DWS cheered loudly each time Prescott was shown on the videoboard during warmups. "It was amazing." Freshman Damian Williams still got the start, then the first, second, and third quarters. He did direct a short touchdown drive after a third intercepted Rebel pass, but Ole Miss took better second-half care of the ball. They also got a blocked punt touchdown before halftime and a field goal on their opening third-quarter drive for the 10-7 lead.
Then Williams made his only real ‘rookie' mistake with a forced throw for the goal line under pressure that was not only five yards short but intercepted. The Dog defense rose again to the occasion and forced a punt. By then Prescott was practically pleading.
"I was antsy throughout the game. I knew Damian could go out there and handle it and he did a good job for the time being. After that turnover I got antsy and told Coach Mullen I wanted to go."
Mullen let himself be convinced, and the rest is Egg Bowl history (see game story). Yes, he was naturally nervous about the first good lick, which proved no big deal. "After that first hit I was like alright, I'm good to go. Adrenalin was probably a big part of it." It had to be as nerve damage isn't tempered with a shot.
Prescott's field goal drive—or drives as there were two, one to tie it and another missed that would have been a winner in regulation—showed the skills. His decisive running and vastly sharper passing were more than Ole Miss could handle. But overtime was more about will.
"We were going to win it. We had confidence in each other, we had the drive to tie the game up and drive we should have won the game there. So we knew we could win, we just had to keep going no matter how many times it takes."
Only one was needed, as on 4th-and-2 in overtime from the three, State ignored even the thought of kicking for a lead and went for the touchdown. A pass play was called, and during timeout Prescott convinced his coaches to change that.
"I just told him just let me run it, it's two yards, I promise I can get it. I'm going to follow those big guys, they were like yeah let's do it. And he believed me." One of those big guys had the final word in the huddle, too. "(Center) Dillon Day turned around and told me before he snapped the ball they were going to make a hole. They did and I got in."
Untouched practically as he started to follow LG Gabe Jackson before cutting rightward behind Day and RG Ben Beckwith who'd indeed created a gaping void. Mullen was thrilled to have been over-ridden by a underclassman quarterback. "He came over and said I'm going to score. Give me the ball, I'll get the job done. So that was a pretty easy decision on my part. I don't have to be a genius coach to get that done!"
Yet he'd only given his team a lead; the defense had to protect and did, the hard way. With Rebel quarterback Bo Wallace surely about to score on a keeper FS Nickoe Whitley made the strip of his career and CB Jamerson Love got to the end zone fumble.
"We've got playmakers all around me," Prescott said. Yet undeniably his plays, and his passion, were the biggest on Scott Field in a game that brings out the emotions in everyone. His emotions were already running redline after something Mullen told the entire team to do during the short game week.
"He asked us to write a letter because he wanted this game to be personal," Prescott said. "I wrote it to my Mom. She's just like me, and she hated Ole Miss just as much as I did!" It wasn't hate that drove Prescott though. Love did, love of teammates and coach and program, everyone involved with Mississippi State and Bulldog football. Mullen worked hard to hold back his own tears in post-game talking about the letter and his letter-man, comparing Prescott to another 15 who proved his toughness under big-game fire.
Prescott also made sure mentor, team captain, and injured friend Russell, his right arm still stabilized, got to semi-hold up the Golden Egg during the on-field celebrating.
But the greatest love was for, yes, his greatest and most-missed fan. The son does have more football to play this season and will do it with special satisfaction now.
"And her favorite time of football season was going to a bowl game," Prescott said. "So it's no better feeling than to be able to go bowling for her."