The title of Saturday’s South Carolina-Mississippi State game might as well have been “Dak Prescott Mistakes.”
With a first-year starter – and especially on the road against a top-15 team – growing pains can be expected.
They were easy to find during the Gamecocks’ 34-16 win.
Prescott committed four turnovers – a couple in the “are you kidding me” mold. South Carolina cashed them in for 20 points.
The worst part for coach Dan Mullen’s team is State actually played a reasonable game defensively, holding Gamecocks QB Connor Shaw to 50 percent passing. However, Prescott’s mistakes consistently put Shaw on a short field, enabling his 4 TD passes.
South Carolina RB Mike Davis carried the load when needed, running for 128 yards on 15 tries.
Still, the Bulldogs actually out-gained the Gamecocks, 385-307 – a meaningless stat when the turnover difference is 5-0 in South Carolina’s favor.
Prescott, unfortunately, factored significantly into both statistical categories.
Mullen turned to the sophomore on a full-time basis after Prescott played well in the absence of QB1 Tyler Russell, who suffered a concussion in the opener.
Russell showed flashes in 2012 of being a dangerous pocket passer, but seemingly regressed toward the end of the season. His season-opening performance against Oklahoma State showed far more latter season than early season form.
Prescott doesn’t possess the polish of an experienced passer such as Shaw. What Prescott lacks, though, he makes up in raw athleticism.
He is the team’s leading rusher this season and was again on Saturday, plowing his way over Gamecocks defenders for 78 yards and 2 TDs. Prescott has nine more rushing TDs this season than does all-conference RB LaDarius Perkins (10-1).
Still, Prescott’s maturation process means dealing with performances such as the one he posted this week.
Early on, Prescott drew comparisons to another powerful quarterback who opened his collegiate career in Mullen’s offense – Cam Newton. The comparisons will soon start drifting more toward Oklahoma QB Blake Bell – a punishing runner with significant shortcomings in the passing game.
For now, Prescott leans more toward Bell than he does Newton. State’s resulting struggles come as no surprise, either.
Mullen will find his seat growing warmer with each loss. Missing a bowl game could mean looking for work elsewhere – a thought that remains a bit of a reach at this point.
So far, Mullen has bet on his sophomore to lead the Bulldogs to two more wins and the postseason.
Coming off what is hands-down Prescott’s worst performance of the season, though, will a coach under fire turn to his more reliable senior?
Perhaps the next four weeks will show the college football world how much pressure Mullen considers himself to be under.