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Defining Moments

Will the Auburn game be one that defines the way the 2017 Mississippi State football season is seen in the years to come?

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

“When a defining moment comes along, you either define the moment or the moment defines you.”

-Roy McAvoy

This is a quote from the ageless classic movie Tin Cup (Best Golf Movie of all time, don’t feed me the Caddyshack nonsense). Well, this past Saturday night, the moment clearly defined our beloved Bulldogs in a most humbling way. Lucky for MSU, such is life in the SEC, another moment appears to be on the horizon this Saturday when the Dawgs take the field against Auburn. Let’s take a look at everyone who has a defining moment in front of them the same way Roy McAvoy did at the 18th fairway at the US Open.

Nick Fitzgerald- Four games into the 2017 season, Nick Fitzgerald has had a rollercoaster stretch where he has looked like a borderline Heisman QB to a newborn puppy struggling to keep his balance under his own feet. While Fitz has all the capabilities and measurements to look like a great QB, the “moment” for him this week ask the age old question; Is he clutch?

Last week, UGA put a physical and mental beating on Fitz. They did not let him get going running the ball all while confusing and frustrating him when he attempted to pass it. All this led to one of the more inept and downright embarrassing offensive performances under the Dan Mullen era, so the moment arises.

Fitz has his back against the wall against another rigid and tough Auburn defense currently yielding less than 100 yards a game rushing. All signs look to Fitz is going to have to improve passing the ball in order for the Dawgs to find some success on Saturday. Fitz needs to be more careful with the ball then he was last week and let the game come to him. As the offense leader, Fitz needs to set the tone and move the chains early in the game.

Leo Lewis- After a standout performance against LSU, when Leo accounted for 8 tackles and 1 incredibly athletic pass break up. State fans were hoping they were seeing the young man, who has been dragged through countless legal proceedings over the last few months, live up to his billing as a dominant MLB and a rock at the center of the defense for years to come.

Well, Saturday in Athens against a run heavy offense, Leo only accounted for 3 total tackles and was a mystery man for most of the game. Now, what Leo is going through off the field is unprecedented for a student athlete and that does not even begin to address the countless criticisms he deals with daily via social media and in public, so the moment arises.

Leo has a chance to put all this nonsense behind him and have an outlet for any frustrations he might have off the field. He can shut up all the nay sayers and just do what he loves to do, play football. Auburn will present another tough run game and if MSU is to have any shot, we will need Leo to dominate inside and try to force Auburn into passing the ball. Stidham has shown the tendency to be flustered in a pocket and can make some risky throws. Leo has all the capabilities impact the game and Saturday presents a moment for him to show us what he can really do.

Dan Mullen- What a whirlwind of a couple weeks it has been for Dan Mullen. He destroyed LSU on the field in master class performance offensively against a great defensive coach in Aranda. He was discussed and rumored for about 93 jobs the following week and told he was too good for MSU. Then, his offense was completely shut down in Athens for measly 280 yards of total offense and a field goal. Mullen is a brilliant offensive mind and one of the best coaches of QBs in the country; and this Saturday MSU will go against another great offensive mind and QB coach in Malzahn, so the moment arises.

Dan has had mixed results against ol’ Gus Bus. With big wins in 2014 and 2015, he found himself completely and utterly humbled by him in 2016 in Starkville (I have attempted to mentally block that game from my memory along with 2010….Leon Berry). The 2017 edition of the battle has Dan with what some have considered his best team since the Dak led 2014 Dawgs vs Gus’s under the radar national championship contenders with the best QB since Scam Newton.

For Dan to walk into Auburn, against a team like this, and find a way to come away with a victory would be a huge planting of the flag that he is deserving of the recognition for what he is accomplishing at MSU. Dan can change the narrative of how he tends to shrink away in big games and shift it to how the program has grown each year under Dan and wins like this one and LSU can become the new norm. I believe for an MSU win Dan will have to pull out all the stops this weekend. I expect to see every trick and misdirection play in the book (maybe a jump pass) but big games call for big “moments” and calls like this to be made.

So guys here we are. Much like the scene at the end of Tin Cup when Roy stood over his last ball after dumping 5 in the water on 18 telling his caddy Romes he can make this shot. Dan and the Bulldogs are telling us to believe in them because they can do something special. In the words of Romes, “Well then do it. Quit ‘messing’ around.”