If it weren’t for Dakota Prukop’s record-breaking performance, Montana State’s offensive shootout against Eastern Washington last week would have been much more one-sided.
The Bobcats’ standout junior quarterback set the single-game school record with 549 yards and accounted for five touchdowns, helping Montana State come back from an early double-digit deficit.
Prukop passed for 353 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for 196 with another score against the three-time defending Big Sky Conference champions. Coming off a 16-day break between games, Prukop either passed the ball or ran it 74 times during Montana State’s 55-50 loss.
“Dakota Prukop is legitimately a great football player,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said. “He can run, he can throw. He’s bigger than you think and he’s faster than you think.” The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Prukop leads the Big Sky in rushing with 132.5 yards per game — trailed by Mustangs’ quarterback Chris Brown (113) and fullback Joe Protheroe (92.3) — and averages a conference-best 407.5 yards of total offense.
When speaking with reporters during the Big Sky coaches teleconference call earlier this week, Walsh said he believes Prukop could win the Walter Payton Award at some point in his career.
Northern Iowa’s Aaron Bailey was a dynamic dual-threat quarterback who sliced his way through Cal Poly’s defense a week ago. Walsh and the rest of the Mustangs coaching staff believe Prukop is a more elusive runner than Bailey with a stout offensive line that returned all five starters from last season.
“Our coaches are telling us this guy is even more athletic than the last one,” junior linebacker Joseph Gigantino III said. “Me playing in that game, I think Aaron Bailey was a stud.”
Cal Poly rallied for a 35-27 win against the visiting Bobcats last season, though it wasn’t for a lack of effort on Prukop’s part. He passed for 167 yards and ran for 129 more, but the Mustangs were able to keep Prukop out of the end zone all four quarters.
“He has great feet and he’s a really long, lanky dude, big strides,” defensive tackle Marcus Paige-Allen said. “… He was very mobile and very elusive in a few different situations where we had him pressed up.”
That was the case for most Bobcat opponents last season, as Prukop piled up more than 3,500 yards and 31 total touchdowns.
Running back Chad Newell will shoulder some of the carries this fall, having rushed for 139 yards with three touchdowns in the first two games.
Senior Mitch Griebel (10 catches, 113 yards) and sophomore Mitchell Herbert (9 catches, 111 yards, four touchdowns) also give Prukop outlets to distribute the ball to.
“I don’t think you can stop him,” Walsh said. “Hopefully, you can slow him down.”