Sunday, November 29, 2015

Rick Cleveland rates the quarterbacks.

Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss all boast 8-3 records heading into the last weekend of the regular season. Ole Miss and State are ranked. All are headed to bowls. USM plays for a division championship Saturday. There's a chance, albeit slight, Ole Miss will, as well.

This is quite a bit of football success for one small state. It's not unprecedented, but it is rather remarkable.

Smart football people often correctly say quarterbacks get too much credit for a team's success and too much blame for a team's failure. So let's put it this way: You can't blame Dak Prescott, Chad Kelly or Nick Mullens for much at all this season. They do deserve lots and lots of credit.

Never in Mississippi football history have three quarterbacks at the state's three largest universities played so well at the same time. To borrow a slogan from the PGA Tour, these guys are good. Really good.

The numbers they have put up border on preposterous. They would make Magnolia State legends such as Brett Favre, Eli Manning, and Steve McNair proud. Quarterbacks have won Heisman Trophies with nowhere near the statistics these guys have racked up. All have set records.

Get this: As a trio, they have thrown for 10,241 yards and 80 touchdowns. They have accounted, passing and running, for 101 touchdowns. Remember, this is not a video game. This is real football.

All three are accurate. Kelly has completed 65 percent of his throws, Prescott 66 percent and Mullens 64 percent.

I know, I know: Everybody wants to rank them, and that's really hard.

Mullens has the highest passer rating at 158.0, compared to Kelly's 154.1 and Prescott's 151.5. Mullens also has thrown for slightly more yards but against lesser competition.

Their numbers are really similar except for the all-important interception category. That's where Prescott is simply off the charts. Only three of his 393 attempts this season have been caught by the wrong team. Mullens has thrown eight interceptions, Kelly 12.

The touchdown/interception ratios: Kelly 25/12; Prescott 23/3 and Mullens 32/8.

There are many reasons for the success all three programs have enjoyed this season, but it starts at quarterback. Just when you thought Prescott couldn't be any better than he has been these last two seasons at State, he stepped it up to an even higher level. He is more accurate than he has been in the past. He makes better decisions. At times, he puts the Bulldogs on his broad shoulders and carries them. Last Saturday night at Fayetteville was a case in point. He should be much more part of Heisman Trophy discussions.

Kelly's adjustment from junior college football to the SEC has been stupendous. Not since Cam Newton did it at Auburn have we seen anything quite like it. Newton personally accounted for 52 touchdowns over 14 games for Auburn in 2010. Kelly has accounted for 35 TDs over 11 games.

Mullens, a junior, had shown flashes of this season's prowess as a freshman and sophomore. He was pressed into playing as a freshmen when he normally would have red-shirted. He was progressing well his sophomore season before an injury. This season, with better blocking and supported by a running game, he has become a standout, a legit candidate for Player of the Year in his league.

So now we go to the last week of the regular season and each has a chance to end with an exclamation point. Start with Mullens. USM can win its division with a victory at Louisiana Tech Saturday. Tech was the opponent last season when Mullens went down with an injury and USM leading the game. USM, 3-4 at the time, stumbled home at 3-9. A victory Saturday would mean 9-3.

Prescott and Kelly? They go head to head in the Egg Bowl with so much at stake, most of all the Golden Egg Trophy. In Mississippi there is such a monumental difference between 9-3 and Egg Bowl victory, compared with 8-4 and Egg Bowl defeat. No matter which quarterback wins the game, both have achieved splendid seasons in 2015. Indeed, all three have.

•••

Rick Cleveland (rcleveland@clarionledger.com) is executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rick Cleveland still has a Clation Ledger email address?

Anonymous said...

dak a fan favorite. swag an NFL favorite. swag stays, dak learns Canadian.

Anonymous said...

Still like reading Rick Cleveland's articles Thanks for posting this. Really enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

So where is the rating promised in the headline?

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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