STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Dak Prescott already has a favored place in Mississippi State's football history. Now he's also the unquestioned starter at quarterback.
The sophomore's name was etched in program lore after he came off the bench in the fourth quarter — with a hurt shoulder — and led Mississippi State to a 17-10 overtime win over Mississippi in the Egg Bowl on Nov. 28.
Now Prescott says the nerve injury in his non-throwing arm has healed and he's ready to lead the Bulldogs (6-6) against Rice (10-3) in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31.
Prescott and senior Tyler Russell split most of the playing time this season, but Russell is out for the Liberty Bowl after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
Now it's Prescott's show. He's focused on helping the Bulldogs secure a winning record for the fourth straight season.
"We know how good we can be and we're not going to take anything for granted," Prescott said. "We're just going to go out there, make each other better and push each other."
Prescott has had a breakout season when healthy, throwing for 1,657 yards and seven touchdowns while also running for 751 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Those numbers are even more impressive considering it's been a tough few months for Prescott personally. His mother, Peggy, died in November after a yearlong battle with cancer.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Prescott has always seemed a better fit for Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen's offensive playbook than Russell, who was an excellent pocket passer but less comfortable running.
Mullen rose to coaching prominence as the offensive coordinator at Florida under coach Urban Meyer when Heisman winner Tim Tebow was the quarterback.
Though not nearly as accomplished, Prescott's dual-threat abilities are much like Tebow's. And with several young players around Prescott, Mullen is pleased to have the extra practice time before the Liberty Bowl to see how those pieces might fit together in the coming years.
"We're a very young football team and I think a lot of people really didn't expect us to be here," Mullen said. "I think our guys are happy to be out here playing football."
A few weeks ago, it didn't look like Mississippi State would have any sort of postseason.
But the Bulldogs rallied with two straight wins against Arkansas and Ole Miss to end the season. Now the program will play in a bowl game for the fourth straight season for the first time in school history.
The positive momentum is a much different feel than last season, when the Bulldogs started 7-0 but lost four of five down the stretch. They limped into the Gator Bowl against Northwestern and lost 34-20.
Prescott said finishing this season with positive momentum is the first priority, but he also sometimes catches himself looking around the field and thinking about the possibilities for next season.
Sophomore running back Josh Robinson should have a bigger role next season after some impressive games over the past month. He's third on the team with 414 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Junior Jameon Lewis should also return after leading the Bulldogs with 703 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He's also thrown three touchdown passes on trick plays.
"That's what this bowl practice is about — getting ready for spring practice and seeing where things belong and where players are best at," Prescott said. "That's what we're doing. Just trying to make our team better and have some fun."
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