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November 2, 2013
Mississippi State's players weren't happy with the outcome of their trip to Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday, but they wouldn't make excuses for what went wrong after their 34-16 loss to No. 14 South Carolina.
Sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott, who completed 28 of his 43 passes for 235 yards, was quick to shoulder the blame for the loss after the game. Prescott threw three interceptions and lost a fumble as part of Mississippi State's five-turnover day.
"It starts with myself," Prescott said. "We didn't do a good job of being focused and making the right plays, and it begins with me."
Prescott said that communication problems played into the Bulldogs' sloppiness on offense, and said that's an area he needs to improve upon. Prescott also held himself accountable for the Bulldogs' failure to put points on the board just before halftime, when they drove down to South Carolina's 30-yard line.
Prescott needed only to keep the team in field goal range for Mississippi State to cut the lead to 17-13 before halftime, but he was sacked by J.T. Surratt for an 11-yard loss, backing the Bulldogs out of field goal range and sending them into halftime still down by seven.
"It was just bad management and I put that on myself too as a part of that," Prescott said. "It's something we will learn from and we'll fix that."
That mistake was just one of many factors that cost the Bulldogs the game, Prescott said. Another, he said, was that they couldn't sustain the success they found on their opening drive, when they drove 60 yards for a touchdown.
"We went down there and scored and that's how the game should have went the whole game," Prescott said. "We didn't execute. We beat ourselves up the whole game, and the first drive should have been like the rest of the game."
Senior offensive guard Gabe Jackson gave credit to South Carolina's defense for giving Mississippi State fits all game long.
"They had a pretty good defense," Jackson said. "They were active and they were a good group of guys."
Jackson said he and his teammates did a good job of handling Jadeveon Clowney and company, and that the Bulldogs' gameplan for the All-American defensive end was mostly successful. With a variety of screen and dump passes, the Bulldogs limited Clowney to three tackles and one pass breakup.
"There were still times when we didn't do as good as we could have done, but I think we did okay up front," Jackson said. "But we still need to do better and improve."
Jackson said that while the Bulldogs' five turnovers were devastating, their struggle to battle back from the adversity was worse.
"We had our ups and downs," Jackson said. "We've just got to learn how to combat it, to keep going on and pushing through it."
Redshirt freshman cornerback Cedric Jiles agreed that the Bulldogs should have worked harder to overcome those challenges, especially on defense, when Mississippi State's repeated offensive turnovers left him and his teammates working with a short field.
"You've just got to play the next play, whatever happens," Jiles said. "Just try to get a turnover."
Jiles said that while it was frustrating to play so well - the Bulldogs forced seven Gamecock three-and-outs - and not be rewarded by the Bulldog offense, that's no excuse for letting up.
"You've just got to continue to play and stop the offense on every down. Nothing changes. If the offense puts us in a position like that, we've just got to bounce back and make a play and get them off the field."
Sophomore linebacker Bernardrick McKinney, who finished with three tackles and a sack, said that while the defense was solid, it should have done more to help the team.
"On defense, we came out ready to play," McKinney said. "We created a lot of three-and-outs; we just didn't get a lot of turnovers. We've got to force turnovers and change the game.
"To be a great defense, no matter what situation you're in, you've got to make big plays and stop them even if the offense turns it over. The defense has got to make a big play to get the offense back on the field."
Both McKinney and Prescott said that their focus moving forward will be to improve on their 4-4 record by correcting their mistakes.
"We got to get in the workshop, and all the mistakes we made, we've just got to get better," said McKinney.
Prescott said he wouldn't wait until Sunday's practice to get to work. The sophomore said he plans to study the film on the plane ride back to Mississippi, and that he was eager to see what problems he could diagnose.
"I'll have my iPad ready, and be ready for practice tomorrow ready to go," Prescott said.
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