Saturday showdown ushers strong quarterback play


Kentucky Wildcats running back Jonathan George (25), linebacker Alvin Dupree (2) and linebacker Avery Williamson (40) tackle Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott (15) during the first half of the University of Kentucky vs. Mississippi State football game at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, October 6, 2012. Photo by Tessa Lighty

By Katherine Stach

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UK takes its 4-2 record to Starkville, Miss., this weekend to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs in its seventh game of the season. The team hopes bounce back following a 30-27 loss at home to Auburn.

Mississippi State won its third consecutive home game following a 45-20 victory against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, and hopes to add to that streak when the Cats come to town.

The Bulldog’s most dangerous weapon? Senior Quarterback Dak Prescott.

Prescott has had an impressive season as the SEC’s second-leading passer, with 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns. Prescott was a key player in the Bulldog’s game against Louisiana Tech last week, completing 30 of 43 passes for 347 yards and added three more touchdowns to his record.

The Heisman trophy candidate’s performance throughout this season and last has caught the eyes of opposing coaches around the nation. Head coach Mark Stoops, one of those coaches entranced by Prescott’s leadership, knows the team will have its hands full on Saturday.

“They are mature. They are physical and they have an unbelievable leader in their quarterback. A very talented player and a great leader,” Mark Stoops said.

Prescott, who has yet to throw an interception on 225 passing attempts this season, has improved on his decision-making– a quality that has stood out above all other facets of his game.

“Yeah, it shows you a quarterback that has an awful lot of poise, an awful lot of leadership and a lot of experience. He knows what he is doing,” Stoops said. “We have to rise to the occasion and challenge these guys and make competitive plays.”

Quarterback Patrick Towles will be a vital factor in the outcome of Saturday’s game as well. Despite the loss against Auburn, Towles threw for 359 yards. And although his interception in the first half put the Cats at a disadvantage, he completed 27 of his 44 passes.

In the Cats matchup against the Bulldogs last year, Towles threw for 390 yards and accumulated four total touchdowns. The junior quarterback, who’s battled consistency this season, will need to mirror last season’s performance for the Cats to get the upset.

On top of Towles’ efforts, the 21 other players on the field for UK need to bring their A-game as well, which prompted some shakeups in the depth chart.

Sophomore Matt Elam will take over for Melvin Lewis, who suffered a fractured fibula on Thursday’s game against Auburn. It could potentially be a season-ending injury for the senior defensive tackle.

“It’s hard to see you lose a guy like that. He’s a big part of the heart and soul of our defense,” Stoops said. “So we need to try to win a few games down the stretch here and give him an opportunity to try to come back and play one last time (in a bowl game) for the Blue and White.”