I haven’t had the words to describe the feeling of the Saturday night massacre at Death Valley. Hearing the “Maroon-White” cheer coming loud and clear over the death rattle of the record 102,000+ fans in tiger stadium was just excellent. I suppose we will have to wait a few weeks to see how good or bad LSU really is before any final placements of this victory in the MSU annals, but for now, it’s pretty sweet.
BATON ROUGE, La. — In between the hugs and the hallelujahs, the falling tears and players pulling up turf from the Tiger Stadium field, Nathaniel Prescott, a car salesman from Vinton, La. and father of visiting Mississipi State’s victorious quarterback, nudged an East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s officer.
He was standing against the fence in the front row of Section 401, just off a south end zone pylon, and pointed toward his son, Dak, celebrating with teammates in the near distance. He requested the lawman pull his son over toward him.
“Can you get him?” Nathaniel said.
It was minutes after LSU’s last Hail Mary attempt fell to the grass that the Bulldogs chewed up for 570 yards in front of 102,321 fans Saturday night.
The officer stepped in the quarterback’s path to the locker room and redirected him. Father and son embraced, father, his dark shades sitting atop a shaven head, repeatedly patting his son, still in pads, on the back.
They both wore maroon Mississippi State jerseys, the Prescott surname and No. 15 emblazoned on the backs. For 60 minutes, on his home state’s soil, the younger Prescott strafed the Tigers in the air (268 passing yards), stiff-armed them over the Bengal’s eye at midfield (105 rushing yards) and altogether stunned the No. 8 team in the country, to win, 34-29. The son sprinkled impromptu sprints and deep throws into the contest to sustain long possessions. Father likened the Death Valley scene to a dream.
“My heart,” Nathaniel (Nat) Prescott said. “I just want to break into tears. That hug was for me and his mom.”
The late Margaret (Peggy) Prescott never got to witness the win she would have preened about the casino, restaurant and truck stop inside the I-220 Travel Plaza she managed. She walked to work everyday in Tiger country, raising her three boys — Tad, Jace and Dak (short for Dakota) — in a trailer at the Pine Creek Mobile Estates in Princeton, La. Tad and Jace shared one bedroom; for the longest time, Dak and his mother shared the other. Peggy provided for all of them and spoiled her youngest son.
“Every time I looked around it seemed like Dak had a new bike,” Tad said.
Her lasting gift was maintaining a motherly presence, offering a firm-but-fair model after divorcing Nathaniel when Dak was a toddler. Eventually, Nat returned to find Peggy weakened by colon cancer’s metastasis.
Last season, he pushed her around games in a wheelchair, but she died last November, felled by cancer’s toll on the day after Mississippi State’s 34-16 loss on the road against South Carolina. Dak threw three interceptions and lost a fumble against the Gamecocks. He learned of her death over the phone from his father. She died at home. Dak was with Mississippi State coaches in their office at the time, the men his mother entrusted her son’s care with three years earlier.
“I wasn’t burying an ex-wife,” Nat said. “I was burying a best friend.”
Mississippi State (4-0) and Prescott made their moves onto the national scene in sync. The Bulldogs leapt to No. 14 in the polls this week, and Prescott (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) catapulted into the Heisman Trophy conversation. It was the first time Mississippi State had claimed victory at LSU in 14 years, the first time an LSU team lost at home on Saturday night to a team not ranked No. 1 in coach Les Miles’ 10 seasons, the first time the Bulldogs beat a top-10 team on the road since 1986.
Prescott, once recruited by Miles and LSU out of Haughton (La.) High, proved himself at home on the stage, marching 98 yards against LSU on one drive, ad-libbing and dropping off a 74-yard pass, taking off on a read-option run of 56 yards, dodging defenders and diving into the end zone. He absorbed blows, then sped past defenders into the secondary and beyond, collecting yards after contact by the dozen. Father had flashbacks to his son’s childhood.
“I remember Dak playing with his racecars, but not as cars, as football players,” Nathaniel said. “This is what we’ve dreamt of.”
Prescott claimed clairvoyance at the line of scrimmage.
“I pretty much knew everything they were coming with before the snap of the ball,” he said.
Tad made sure his mother’s memory was recalled at Tiger Stadium. He works at Gordon’s jewelry store in Orange, Tex., and had two silver medallions with gold crosses made up recently. The “Lord’s Prayer” is engraved on the front, and his mother’s initials appear on the back. He also formed a second with the words “Fight and Finish” on Dak’s. He gave him the necklace as he got off the team bus Saturday. Dak wore it during the game, then switched with Jace afterward. All three brothers embraced in a darkened tunnel by the visitors’ locker room afterward.
Tad took out a patch of LSU grass from his jeans pocket. His mother, who was cremated, per Native American tradition, told her boys to plant her ashes with a flower once they owned houses. Tad noted that the pairing of his mother’s remains with the turf his brother leveled the Tigers on might make a proper burial site.
“She wanted us to watch a new bloom every year,” Tad said.