Mississippi State's Gerri Green intercepted a Jacoby Brissett pass on the first play from scrimmage, and the Bulldogs never looked back, beating NC State, 51-28, in the Belk Bowl on Wednesday.
For Mississippi State, the win guaranteed that the Bulldogs posted consecutive nine-win seasons for the first time in school history.
Dak Prescott finished his career with Mississippi State in style, racking up 380 passing yards and four passing touchdowns to go along with 47 rushing yards. His total of four touchdown passes was a Mississippi State record at a bowl game, per ESPN Stats & Info.
And it was a fitting end to an excellent career, as Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated noted:
De'Runnya Wilson (five catches for 96 yards and a touchdown), Brandon Holloway (four receptions for 78 yards and two touchdowns, 13 rushes for 41 yards) and Fred Ross (seven catches for 74 yards and a score, one rush for 33 yards and another touchdown) were the Bulldogs' main playmakers.
Brissett finished with 214 passing yards, a touchdown, two interceptions, 67 rushing yards and a rushing score.
The Bulldogs raced to a 21-0 lead by the end of the second quarter. Prescott found Ross for a 14-yard touchdown pass after Green's interception to open the scoring, and two drives later—after another Brissett interception—Prescott found Wilson on a 28-yard passing score.
It was obvious pretty quickly that Prescott was feeling it, as Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report noted:
One drive later, Ross raced 33 yards for a score on a reverse.
NC State showed signs of life, however. Brissett found Pharoah McKever for an 82-yard TD following Ross' score, and one drive later, Jaylen Samuels scampered 48 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to seven.
Mississippi State had an answer, however, as Prescott drove the Bulldogs 74 yards on nine plays on their next drive before appearing to plunge into the end zone. He fumbled, though Mississippi State's Justin Malone recovered the ball in the end zone for the score.
The Bulldogs finished the half in style, as Westin Graves hit a 39-yard field goal to give the team a 31-14 lead at the half.
Brissett's three-yard touchdown run halfway through the third quarter cut the lead back down to 10, but that's as close as NC State would get. Two Prescott touchdown passes to Holloway down the stretch put away the Wolfpack.
It was plays like those that left Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer impressed with Prescott:
Aeris Williams' 33-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter wrapped up the scoring for the Bulldogs, while Samuels would add a one-yard touchdown run with under a minute remaining to close the scoring for the Wolfpack.
For Prescott, it was a dynamic finish to an impressive career at Mississippi State. The next question will be where he fits in at the NFL level.
Dion Caputi of the National Football Post offered his take:
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports was a bit more reserved in his scouting report:
While Prescott looks to find his way in the NFL, the Bulldogs will attempt to continue to build on their consecutive nine-win seasons under Dan Mullen. For NC State, meanwhile, it will be back to the drawing board after a disappointing end to the 2015 season.
After the game, the center of conversation, unsurprisingly, was Prescott.
"I've coached a lot of great football players, and he's easily one of the best," Mullen said, per Robby Donoho of WCBI-TV. "He's a special talent."
He added, "You can't count the number of people that Dak has impacted in his time at MSU. He's really, really special."
NC State head coach Dave Doeren took some time to praise Prescott, too, per Joel Coleman of the Starkville Daily:
Prescott was quick to speak about the program rather than himself, however.
"I bought into Dan and MSU five years ago, and I believed in him and this program. We made it," he said, per Donoho.
He added, "I wanted to go out a winner. I wanted people to remember me in my last game in the maroon and white as a winner, and we did it."
"I'm just thankful for this program, this team, this university for the last five years. It's been great," he concluded.
And the program, undoubtedly, has been incredibly thankful for him.