Now that the season has come to a close, it's time to look back at the year that was Mississippi State football. The Bulldogs finished the season 7-6 after three-straight wins ending the year and their fourth-consecutive trip to a bowl. Even with just one less win than the year before, the Bulldogs season was far more successful considering the circumstances.
Reflecting back on the year, we have come up with the top five most instrumental players for the Bulldogs in 2013. Some of these might surprise you.
Number Five: Gabe Jackson:
Number Four: Jameon Lewis:
Number Three: Tyler Russell:
Number Two: Nickoe Whitley:
Number One: Dak Prescott:
There could be only one player that meant the most to Mississippi State and their run to a fourth-straight bowl game. Without any of these five players, the seven wins wouldn't have been possible but one has everything set up for a magical run next season.
When Tyler Russell went down in the first game of the season, it was time for Dak Prescott to be the team's quarterback sooner than expected. In his first start, Bulldog fans saw why Mullen and company were excited to have him on campus. The sophomore torched Alcorn State and didn't even play much of the second half.
It was his second start that spoke to the future of MSU's offense. Prescott went to the plains of Auburn and weaved his way through the Tiger defense carrying the ball for 133 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns and passing for another 213. Despite the Bulldogs' loss late in the game to the eventual national runner up, Prescott had emerged.
With Russell now getting healthier, Dan Mullen had a tough choice on his hands but he stayed with Prescott most of the ball games trading possessions with Russell. Prescott began to mesmerize fans with his hard-nosed running ability and his development as a passer. The Bulldogs then traveled to South Carolina where Prescott ran into his first buzz-saw.
Prescott had a nightmare game. The talented quarterback racked up 78 yards on the ground with a couple of touchdowns, but his passing game wasn't there as he was harassed for three interceptions. Fans began to wonder if he could develop a passing game or was he going to be a one-dimensional quarterback. That was until the tragic news was released.
It had been discovered that Prescott wasn't backing down from the big stage, the team leader's mind was racing. Prescott had gotten word that his mother, Peggy, was in her last moments of her battle with cancer. A constant hero in Dak's life, Peggy told Prescott to keep fighting. The Bulldogs were battling for six wins and a bowl game; she wanted her son to focus on his career.
Prescott spent the week following the South Carolina loss with his family in Louisiana. Coaches and a select few players went to the funeral to pay respects to someone they all considered a mother as Prescott was their quintessential brother. With literally no practice time outside of a walk through, Prescott was determined to play against the Aggies of Texas A&M and that's what he would do.
Dak put together one of the most awe-inspiring performances a Bulldog quarterback could manage. While "Johnny Football" would make his highlights, Prescott slowly started to draw eyes towards him. With every hit there was an extra yard gained by Prescott and he led the offense for 16 carries and 154 yards rushing, his best game on the ground yet. With two more touchdowns thrown, Prescott had garnered the respect of everyone in attendance and went out fighting for extra yardage towards the goal line before sharp pain numbed his entire left arm to his neck.
With tears in his eyes, Prescott looked finished. There was seemingly no way that the sophomore could play again the rest of the season and Mullen confirmed it with doctors. That would have been easy for Prescott to sit back and see his injury healed in the offseason while his teammates were sitting at home in December. He fought back. Mullen called it divine intervention as the Egg Bowl rolled around and Prescott was good enough to play. With precautions set, the Bulldogs chose true freshman Damian Williams to take the reins and try to get MSU bowl eligible.
Prescott sat on the sideline watching a struggling MSU offense fall behind against the bitter rivals. State trailed 10-7 into the fourth and Prescott turned to Mullen and told him he was ready. The sophomore came in to a rousing cheer from the crowd who had jumped aboard his bandwagon a few weeks prior. Prescott led the team down the field in the fourth quarter giving them new life. He rushed for 29 yards and passed for 115 more completing third and fourth downs with ease. The Bulldogs would take it to overtime when they were short of the first down inside the five.
Facing fourth and goal, Prescott told Mullen again that he was ready. Running behind the push of the line, Prescott was in the endzone for the go-ahead score and the Bulldogs would emerge victorious. It was a storybook ending for one of the great stories in sports. Overcoming adversity is something completely normal for the boy from the boot.
Prescott ended one of the greatest offensive seasons in MSU quarterback history and very well could have set more records than he did had he played the full year. In his first year as starter, Prescott broke the school record in rushing yards by a quarterback (829) and was top 10 in seven other categories including third in total offense (2,769) and touchdowns (23).
Prescott is also quickly climbing up the board in career numbers already first in interception % (.0261) and completion % (.588). He's also posted top-10 career numbers in yards per attempt and 200-yard passing games.
There's no doubt about it, Dak Prescott is set for big things in 2014. With his team, coaches and fans behind him, there's not much he can't accomplish.