UK Football

Miss. St.-UK notes: Heisman candidate Dak Prescott hasn't been stopped yet

There is nothing subtle about the Mississippi State game notes, which compare Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott's numbers to past Heisman Trophy winners like Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow.

Prescott, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior, has almost identical numbers to each of those quarterbacks, plus a few things none of them had: three straight wins over top-10 opponents in their Heisman seasons and three straight games with 200-plus yards passing and 100-plus yards rushing.

It's the wheels to go with the arm that make Prescott so special and so tough to stop. Oh, and don't forget he can catch a touchdown, too, which he did last season in a close victory over Kentucky.

"That kind of guy, he has toughness and he has grit," UK defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh said of Prescott. "Any time you're facing a guy like that, you have to try to limit what he does. But he's had a lot of success against a lot of good teams."

No team — not Louisiana State, not Auburn, not Texas A&M — has been able to stop Prescott this season.

When asked how to stop Prescott, LSU's Les Miles scoffed a bit.

"That one, you're going to have to get to the next guy to find that one out," he said. "Any time that you can play defense and slow the running game down, that helps, but any time that you spread and put that really capable running quarterback in position, boy, that's a dynamic spot. And he does a great job at it.

"So stopping Dak is really a very formidable question."

Prescott is averaging 23 points a game on his own, which would make him alone a more potent offense than 22 teams in the nation. He's had four 200-plus yard passing/100-yard games this season.

Prescott, who has run for 568 yards and eight touchdowns and thrown for 1,478 yards and 14 scores, is making all the right decisions, which can put a defense in a serious bind.

"He's always been a great runner and they've always had a great quarterback run game plan, but now he's added that dimension of being able to throw the ball and make great decisions as well," UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said.

And it's not just the quarterback that has made the top-ranked Bulldogs one of the most potent offenses in the country, averaging an SEC best 529.7 yards a game and 6.9 yards a play as well as 41.8 points, ninth best in the nation. Presott's supporting cast has been stellar, too.

"They don't do a lot of spectacular plays," Kentucky senior defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree said. "It's just, what plays they do run they just do it great. A-plus to that. Guys execute their blocks and they make a play when they have to. If they have a one-on-one matchup, they'll make you miss."

'They can competewith anyone'

Kentucky has Mississippi State's undivided attention.

Bulldogs Coach Dan Mullen is throwing out the Cats' 41-3 loss at Louisiana State as an anomaly.

"I don't know if you can judge any team by how they perform on a Saturday night in Death Valley," he said. "They had a tough game last week and some things went wrong for them."

He's been impressed by the turnaround job done by Kentucky's coaches in just their second season, calling the Cats "one of the hottest and most improved teams in college football.

"I think Mark Stoops has done a great job," Mullen said. "The first thing you start with is getting guys to play hard. You can get the talent, but the guys have to play hard. They are playing hard and with a lot of energy. There are guys stepping up and making big plays for them when they need them.

"That is a sign that they have bought in to what Coach Stoops is trying to build. I think you are seeing those steps pay off on the field for them this year. They are 5-2, with both losses coming on the road in the SEC. One was a triple-overtime game. When you look at the improvement that they have made, they can compete with anyone."

A throw-away game?

If Neal Brown had his way, the tape from Kentucky's throttling at Louisiana State last week would go directly into the trashcan.

But no matter how stomach-turning it might be, the offensive coordinator has to use that tape as a teaching tool to make sure the same mistakes aren't repeated.

"There's a lot of learning points, especially where we're at," Brown said. "If we had a veteran team, hey, we may have came in and not even watched the video. Really. And just said, 'Hey, we're better than that, let's go.' But I think where we're at, especially on offense, we've got to learn from those mistakes, or you repeat them."

Citing the Tigers as "not a great matchup for us," Brown believes the LSU domination is not a good indicator of what his offense has become, or what it will look like in the future.

"Do I think we're better than we showed on Saturday? Absolutely. I think we've got six other games to show that," he said.

Brown thinks they are so much better, in fact, that the "six other games" would include a bowl game. There are five games left in the regular season.

Horton emerging

As of Thursday, it was unclear whether Kentucky's all-purpose leader Stanley "Boom" Williams was going to be available for Saturday's game.

Of the true freshman, who suffered an apparent head injury in last week's game at Louisiana State, Stoops said: "I'm not comfortable commenting right now on his status, OK? I'd rather just not comment on it right now."

If Williams misses, the player most likely to get his running back reps is fellow true freshman Mikel Horton, who was the leading rusher last week at LSU with five carries for 29 yards.

"He played well," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "He did some really good things. He was one of those guys coming out of the game that I was excited about, because he ran the ball late in the third and the fourth quarter and I thought he did some nice things.

"He put (himself) in a position, especially if Stanley doesn't go, then he'll get some more reps, get some more carries."

For the season, Horton is the Cats' fourth-leading rusher with 38 carries for 201 yards and two touchdowns. His 5.3 yards per carry is third on the team.

Horton said he's just happy that his hard work is paying off.

"My mindset was just waiting on my moment," he said. "The coaches stress a lot about not being selfish and stuff like that, so I kept it in (my) mind about not being selfish, not being upset that I'm not playing as much."

Quick hits

Kentucky fans will have a chance to become a part of Commonwealth Stadium's history with a chance to sign a piece of steel that is part of the renovation.

Fans interested in signing should visit the Guest Services booth outside Gate 9 at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.

The SEC Network's SEC Nation show will tape segments for College GameDay and SportsCenter on Saturday at 9 a.m. from its set on the corner of Alumni Drive and College Way. Also, the first 350 fans will receive a free T-shirt.

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