Kentucky-Mississippi St. notes: QB Prescott could give Cats fits

jsmith3@herald-leader.comOctober 23, 2013 

Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott (15) ran away from Kentucky Wildcats defensive end Taylor Wyndham (94) as Kentucky played Mississippi State on Saturday October 6, 2012 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

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Mississippi State's offense might feel eerily familiar to Kentucky defenders.

It's similar to the one the Cats practice against almost every day, all the way down to the two quarterbacks: one who specializes in running and the other who prefers to pass.

But it's the runner, Dak Prescott, who has caught the attention of the UK coaches and many others in the Southeastern Conference.

He's tied for second in the league in touchdowns scored with nine, and he's ninth in the league in total offense (890 yards passing and 457 yards rushing).

Prescott has even caught a 36-yard pass for a touchdown this season. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound sophomore has had a hand in 12 of State's 23 scores.

He started being used more regularly when senior Tyler Russell suffered a concussion. Now they both have chances.

"Their quarterback is very athletic, makes a lot of plays on his feet," UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said of Prescott, who ran seven times for 32 yards as a freshman against the Cats. "He makes good decisions, got a strong arm. I think that he makes the thing run. He's the key to that thing."

Defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree said the goal is to slow down Prescott, who has scored eight touchdowns on the ground.

"We've got to make sure we keep him contained, play our keys and just make sure we read them because he will make you look bad out there on the field," Dupree said.

Prescott is a lot like the Mississippi State offense, head coach Mark Stoops surmised — physical and versatile.

"Any time you've got the quarterback involved in the run and they're physical, it makes you add numbers," he said. "So, we have to be very disciplined with all the different option games they do and all the quarterback run games. Then you've got to get them on the ground."

A special teams riddle?

At its current pace, Mississippi State special teams might be the answer to a trivia question: Which SEC team has the worst punt return team and the best kickoff return team?

The Bulldogs are last in the nation in punt returns with seven returns for two yards. The Bulldogs are the country's second-best kickoff return team, averaging 31.25 yards.

But UK special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto said to not let the Bulldogs' punt return statistics fool you.

"They're one of the best special teams we've faced all year," said Peveto, noting State plays a lot of safe looks to ward off potential fakes. "They're taking care of the ball, sometimes that doesn't result in good returns. But they've got a good plan, they're well-coached and they've got one of the best returners we've faced."

The returner mostly responsible for both is junior Jameon Lewis, MSU's best receiver. The junior averages 27.6 yards per kickoff return, 19th in the nation.

Dupree on way back

Kentucky was without junior Alvin "Bud" Dupree against Alabama two weeks ago as he battled a strained pectoral muscle.

Teammates and coaches are glad to have him back.

"Bud's one of our best players, if not our best player," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "Bud has a huge impact in everything we do on defense."

Dupree said he will wear a special strap to keep his arm from extending outward and stretching the hurt muscle during the game.

Za'Darius Smith was all smiles when asked about his returning bookend on the UK defensive line.

"Just seeing him come off the ball and me come off the ball, the whole D-line just come off the ball. It's great."

Clang, clang, clang

Stoops didn't find a specialized digital cowbell clip to play over the loudspeakers this week for Kentucky, but he's made sure his players are ready for the constant noise at Mississippi State.

"Cowbells is going to be new to me," he said with a smile.

Because of the SEC expansion scheduling glitch, many of UK's players have never made a trip to Starkville. One of the few, Anthony Kendrick, said the MSU noisemakers are just something you have to experience.

"It's just a lot more noise and kind of aggravating," the senior tight end said. "It's just a lot more noise, along with the screaming and hollering that's going on up there."

Several coaches and players this week were asked what they thought of when they heard the word "cowbell."

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown said it's a term that's synonymous with Mississippi State for him.

Quarterback Maxwell Smith agreed. "I think loud and annoying. I'm pretty sure that's why they do it."

Freshman running back Jojo Kemp went a different direction when asked what he associates with cowbells.

"Milk," he said with a straight face.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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