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Nick Fitzgerald Struggles in 24-0 Loss to Alabama

Nick Fitzgerald struggled mightily through the air and on the ground against the defending national champions.

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

I think it is safe to say that nobody is surprised by the end result of Miss. State’s game versus Alabama. Mainly because of the fact that Alabama is easily the best team in the nation and it appears this Alabama team’s chances at repeating as national champions is pretty much a certainty. The fact that we had to play Bama on the road in their house is another reason... Tuscaloosa is not an easy place to go to and come out with a victory. Yet, this game actually had a chance to be a close one. Several big opportunities were squandered by the Bulldogs and there were also several bad calls by the refs, including one that I believe was the worst call I have ever seen called against our Bulldogs.

Alabama was once again able to score a touchdown on their opening drive of the game, but this drive did not come without controversy. Alabama running back Damien Harris appeared to fumble the ball during their first drive, Miss. State recovered and began celebrating, but the refs ruled that Harris was down and Alabama was able to continue the drive. It was close, but replay showed that it looked like a definite fumble. However, the replay official never stopped the game to review the play. That was inexcusable in my opinion because I have seen plenty of plays that were much more obvious end up being reviewed ever since the replay review was implemented. As bad as that was, Joe Moorhead shares some blame in that also considering he did not challenge the ruling, but considering it was the beginning of the game and the lack of time to make a determination whether to challenge or not so early in the game may have played a part in that situation. Still, the momentum was stolen from the Bulldogs and Alabama ended up scoring on the same drive. We all know how important momentum is during football games, so it was a tough pill to swallow.

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Fitzgerald’s success passing the ball also came to a halt after 2 straight games passing the ball very well the previous 2 weeks. Fitzgerald was barely able to get over 50% completing passes and was only able to go 11 for 20 with 125 yards passing. There have been several games where Fitzgerald struggled throwing the ball, but always had a good game rushing the ball... this was not one of them. I haven’t checked, but I’m willing to bet anything it was his worst rushing performance of his career. I know he was up against a very tough and physical Alabama defense, but to run the ball 14 times with -23 yards rushing is just awful. There was also some dropped passes in the game, so the offensive struggles were not all on Fitzgerald. Kylin Hill was actually able to average 6.7 yards per rush, but he only got 7 total carries for 49 yards. The team finished with just 44 yards on 30 rushing attempts... that is just not going to cut it against the best team in the nation. Nick Fitzgerald and the offense was able to put together a decent drive late in the 2nd quarter, and appeared to be on their way to making a 14-0 ball game into a 1 possession ball game headed into the half while taking some much needed momentum with them into the visiting locker room, but the refs made sure that would not happen on what I consider the worst penalty ever called against Miss. State. Fitzgerald was able to find Kylin Hill wide open in the left flats and Hill was able to dive and reach the ball over the goal line right at the pylon. It wasn’t initially called a touchdown, but replay showed he clearly got the ball over the goal line for the touchdown, but the replay was also able to show a much worse mistake made by the refs on the play. Miss. State WR Deddrick Thomas was flagged for a phantom block in the back that negated the chance at a review that the Bulldogs would’ve easily won. When I say it was a “phantom” block in the back, I mean he did not even touch the Alabama defender, not even close. It was an inexcusable and atrocious call by the ref and it cost the Bulldogs a chance to get back in the game. The call seemed to not matter a play later when the Bulldogs seemed to score a touchdown on a wide open pass to the end zone, but sadly the play clock had barely run out before the snap and the Bulldogs were penalized, correctly, for a delay of game. Miss. State would have to settle for a field goal, but we managed to mess that up too as Christman’s kick sailed wide left... can’t blame that on the refs, but it should’ve never come to that. Still, bad calls happen in football all the time and you have to be able to execute after those bad calls... we did not, and the Bulldogs were unable to score the entire game, resulting in the 24-0 loss and Alabama’s 11th straight victory over Miss. State. The defense started slow, but they were able to figure things out and hold Alabama over 200 yards below their season average. They were also able to intercept a ball thrown by Tua Tagavailoa, only his 2nd interception of the season. I’m not one of those that likes to discuss moral victories, but this defense deserves a ton of credit for holding Alabama to their worst offensive performance of the season. Such a shame that a defense as good as this one doesn’t have the support it needs on the offensive side of the ball. This defense truly is special, as well as rare.

Even with the bad calls and missed opportunities, I still think Alabama won the game fair and square, they were just simply the better team. Going up against the defending national champions, and the favorite team to win this years national championship, a team cannot make the critical mistakes we made during the game and expect to come out victorious. Yes, the missed calls and bad penalties hurt our chances, this game could’ve been much closer at the end, but I believe Bama would’ve still come out on top. The thing that drove me crazy, was the fact that we blew too many chances and were penalized 7 times to Alabama’s 0... yes you read that correctly, a football team was penalized zero times. I have never heard of that before, not in my lifetime at least. Please let me know if you have ever heard of that happening before because I cannot recollect it if it did. Another thing that makes it even more bizarre is Miss. State was tied to 2 games where the opponent did not get penalized in consecutive days. The Cowboys, led by Miss. State Alumni and QB Dak Prescott, faced the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles who were also penalized 0 times throughout the entire game on Sunday Night Football. Only in this one, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys were able to come out with a victory... thank God. I don’t know if I could have handled watching both of my teams lose to a team that had 0 penalties. I mean it was stranger than fiction to go from never seeing that happen to seeing it twice in just two days.

It is hard to believe that Miss. State is down to it’s last 2 games of the season, with our last home game coming this Saturday against Arkansas and I don’t think I need to tell any of you who we play the following week because I’m pretty sure all of us have been itching for that game since last year. Nick Fitzgerald and our Bulldogs have to put this loss behind them and build on their bowl game resume. We need Fitzgerald to play with more confidence and intensity these next 2 weeks so we can do just that. I certainly imagine he will not need too much more motivation for that last game of the regular season. We need to pack out the stadium on Saturday to support our Bulldogs and the seniors who have worked so hard during their time here. Then the next Saturday we need to pack as many Bulldog fans as possible at a different stadium up north here in Mississippi... yeah I know you know where I’m talking about, no need to leave anyone directions on here I’m sure. Hope to see y’all there! Hail State!!!