There is no sugar coating Nick Fitzgerald’s performance against LSU in Baton Rouge Saturday Night... It was his worst performance of his career in my opinion. He was able to run the ball some, he was able to gain 131 yards on 23 carries, and even pulled off a 40 yard scamper to the LSU 5 yard line on the Bulldogs second possession of the game. After a couple of head scratching runs up the middle, the Bulldogs had to settle for a FG and 3 points... that would be the last points scored for the Mississippi St. Bulldogs the entire night. When we did run the ball, on certain drives, we were unable to turn it into points.
The passing game? It was ugly, it was hard to watch and it was embarrassing to watch Fitzgerald, a preseason Heisman watch-list QB, throw the ball against a stout LSU defense. The #5 LSU Tigers defeated our Bulldogs 19-3 and this game has left many of the Bulldog faithful wondering... could we actually see Moorhead bench the all-time leading rushing QB in the SEC?
Coming into this game we all knew we had to be able to pass the ball at least a little to be able to keep a defense as good as LSU’s modest, but our passing attack failed in the most miserable fashion. Fitzgerald finished the game 8 for 24 with 59 yards in the air with 0 TD’s and 4 INT’s... I repeat... FOUR Interceptions. That means he had only 4 more completions that interceptions. Folks... that’s not going to cut it in the SEC. Heck, that’s not going to cut it in any conference in the NCAA or even in any form of American football. I doubt it’ll cut it in Canada or Europe either. We cannot expect to beat the best teams in this conference if we are unable to pass the ball with at least some consistency. It is just not going to happen. We can beat some teams with our ground game alone, but beyond that? Nope.
I can’t help but be disappointed in how the Moorhead era has begun like most people surely are. The offense has not been able to live up to the hype this year. Our defense, however, has been phenomenal. One of the best defenses in MSU history in my opinion. It is such a shame that we have to waste such an opportune time for this team with a defense as great as this. We will lose several key players to the draft, and this will only make things harder on Coach Moorhead.
As bad as it has been, I don’t think it’s fair to question the hiring of Moorhead like I’ve heard from several fellow State fans. I mean come on... it is his first year and he is implementing a new offensive system that flows with the Run/Pass Option. Like many of you, I thought Fitzgerald would acclimate to this system a little better, but that has not been the case. I refuse to give up hope on a man who hasn’t been able to get through a recruiting cycle. I know he walked into a good situation with a good team, but it’s still too early to throw in the towel on him... let’s just stop that nonsense right now.
With all of these question marks lingering around this team, no question mark is bigger or more apparent than the decision Moorhead might have to make. That is, could he actually be close to benching Fitzgerald and going with Keytaon Thompson? How many people thought we’d be asking this question before the season started? Stop lying to yourself, none of us did. Yet here we are... and it’s a very justifiable question to ask. We can’t expect to compete with the best teams in the SEC if we can’t throw the ball. I am a firm believer there is no harder conference to play QB than the SEC, and if Fitzgerald does not figure this system out and start making better reads and more accurate passes we will see him standing on the sidelines.
Right now, Fitzgerald is in a tough place. I mean he is a human being, and he knows what we are all saying about him. It’s no secret he is playing bad, and he knows it as well. He holds himself accountable for a lot of the misfortunes that have plagued our Bulldogs and you can see it in his face and demeanor after the games. This young man has been through an absolute whirlwind roller coaster ride in his time at Mississippi State. He went from getting no offers from any power 5 conferences and was given a chance late in his recruitment. He has had to emerge from the shadow of the best QB in MSU history, in Dak Prescott. He started off slow and then burst onto the scene his sophomore year by running all over #4 Texas A&M and breaking an Egg Bowl rushing record in a blowout win over Ole Miss. He had a very solid year his junior year, even going toe to toe with #1 Alabama, the eventual National Champs. Then the season ended in heartbreaking fashion as we watched him get carted off the field with a gruesome leg injury against the Ole Miss Rebels in Starkville and he had to watch Ole Miss carry the Golden Egg off the field and back to Oxford. Then to add even more on top of that he watched the man that have him his shot leave for Florida just days later. Now here he is on the verge of being benched just a couple weeks after breaking SEC legend Tim Tebow’s rushing record. I, for one, cannot imagine going through those roller coasters of emotion and I know this possibility has to be heavy on his mind.
Right now, Nick Fitzgerald is on the ropes... He has to dig deep, put it all behind him and play the way he knows he is capable of playing. I badly want him to succeed and I hope he can prove us all wrong and finish this season strong. We will find out how much fight he and our Bulldogs have in them very soon and only time will tell if a change is coming. Yeah, we most likely won’t make it to a New Years 6 bowl game this season, but when has that ever stopped us from supporting this team? One game at a time folks... See y’all on Saturday.