As of yesterday, it seems likely that Mississippi State will start freshman Damien Williams at quarterback in Thursday’s Egg Bowl. According to Dan Mullen, Dak Prescott won’t be available until a bowl game, and Tyler Russell remains day-to-day.
Though Mullen did say after Saturday’s Arkansas game that Russell only practiced half a practice last week, yet he ended up playing most of the game. So maybe Russell ends up getting the majority of the snaps again. Or maybe Prescott plays. WHO KNOWS WHAT DAN MULLEN’S GAME IS HERE.
However, if Williams does start, the history of backup quarterbacks who see significant playing time in the Egg Bowl is a fairly bleak one. Only going back the late 1990s because I don’t care enough to spend more brain processing power or research time, I came up with two quarterbacks who made their Egg Bowl debut after serving primarily as a backup all season. And as best I can recall, both instances happened to Ole Miss.
In 1998, after Romaro Miller was injured the week before against Georgia, Ole Miss was forced to start walk-on freshman David Morris against a State team that was playing to go to Atlanta. SHOCKINGLY, it didn’t go well for Morris or Ole Miss, as he went 8 for 24, 75 yards, 0 TD, 3 INTs, 4 carries for -10 yards, and Ole Miss lost 28-6 (on a side note, I forgot how awful Wayne Madkin, State’s quarterback, was in that game, as he went 7 for 19, 164 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT #JackieWayneCoastOffense).
The second time it happened was in 2011 in the last game of the Houston Nutt era. Barry Brunetti was named the starter the previous week against LSU after Randall Mackey was suspended. Brunetti, along with everyone else, struggled mightily against LSU in a 52-3 loss. Against State, he turned out to not be awful, but certainly not good, as he put up a state line of 12 for 22, 110 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 14 carries for 23 yards, in a 31-3 loss.
Though it’s never ideal to be starting a backup quarterback so late in the year, both of those instances included factors not associated with an untested quarterback starting. Going into the ’98 game, rumors were SWIRLING TO AND FRO about Tommy Tuberville leaving to take the Auburn job, so it wasn’t exactly a great time of focus and commitment to beating State.
In 2011, the dumpster fire in the last days of the Houston Nutt era was burning down most of Lafayette County. To say that Houston Nutt lost that team is an insult to coaches who have lost teams before. That they got on the bus to Starkville remains as a reminder of great individual efforts.
While not in a perfect situation, Williams is in a much more stable environment and in a better position to be just average, which is what State needs out of him. Mullen is taking heat for this team’s disappointing season, but it’s highly unlikely he’ll be fired after this year.
So maybe Williams, without intense speculation about his coach’s future or a fired coach trying to prepare him, will fare better than Morris and Brunetti. But if not, fun times in Birmingham are not in store for State fans. In case it does go poorly, State fans, take comfort on a cold Thanksgiving night in the warmth Sylvester Croom trying to remember if the turkey has another 45 minutes at 350 degrees or 35 minutes at 450 degrees.
/calls Woody McCorvey for help
/turns oven down to 75 degrees for 12 hours
/attempts to teach West Coast offense to green bean casserole