There’s a popular hashtag in the Mississippi State social media realm, #AlwaysRunNeverPass. While it may be somewhat tongue in cheek, it has resonated with Bulldog fans for a reason, the maroon and white have been at their best when the running game has been going. That was certainly the case on Saturday night at Davis Wade Stadium, as Joe Moorhead’s offense piled up 349 yards on the ground against an Auburn defense that was giving up under 100 yards rushing all season, and the grind it out approach led to a 23-9 win over the #8 rated Tigers.
JaTarvious Whitlow was thisclose to scoring Auburn’s first touchdown of the night…
but he fumbled through the end zone for a touchback. pic.twitter.com/WSthWOStRz
— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) October 7, 2018
As good as Mississippi State was tonight, this was where the game swung. Auburn’s Boobie Whitlow broke a long run and dove for the end zone, but Mark McLaurin stripped him right before he crossed the goal line, and the ball found itself in the hands of a hustling Kobe Jones for a touchback. Instead of a 16-13 game with Auburn having all the momentum, the Bulldogs were able to keep a 16-6 lead. MSU’s defense was clutch all night, never more so than on this play.
— MSU Football ? (@HailStateFB) October 7, 2018
That’s the Nick Fitzgerald MSU fans know and love. Fitzgerald was a battering ram on the ground tonight, racking up 195 yards on 28 carries, continually getting big runs when the Bulldogs needed them. In his effort tonight, he eclipsed Tim Tebow’s SEC record for rushing yards by a quarterback, a number he will probably put out of reach by season’s end. Fitzgerald is one of the best running quarterbacks in recent history, not just at MSU or in the SEC but nationally. If Mississippi State wants to build upon this win and get back to where preseason expectations had them, they need to use Fitzgerald’s skill set as they did in this win. Let him and his backfield mates Kylin Hill and Aeris Williams control the line of scrimmage, and take advantage of the pass when it is there for you. This is the offense Bulldog fans wanted the past two weekends, and I don’t doubt the Bulldogs would be sitting at 6-0 if it had been in place. We’ll see if it continues to be the case when MSU travels to LSU in two weeks.
WHAT ABOUT THE DEFENSE?
Montez Sweat is pretty good pic.twitter.com/7RMPMbKxop
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) October 7, 2018
Mississippi State’s defense had played well enough to win the previous two weeks, tonight the Bulldogs took matters into their own hands, harrassing Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham all night, forcing him into an uncharacteristic 19-38 for 214 yards and no scores. The Bulldogs also bottled up Auburn’s rushing attack to a mere 90 yards, and of course held the Tigers out of the end zone. Bob Shoop made the right calls throughout the evening, keeping Gus Malzahn off balance and dictating the pace of play. This defense is as good as any in Mississippi State history, and its capable of carrying this team to a lot of wins with just some offense. In other words, getting 20 points might be enough against everybody remaining on the Bulldog’s schedule except for Alabama.
Final from Gainesville. pic.twitter.com/1FkPqmwt8S
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) October 6, 2018
We have been saying all along LSU’s inability to score would cost them, and the bubble finally burst in Gainesville today. Joe Burrow finally threw an interception, and it was costly, a pick six that sealed the game up for Florida. The Tigers also gave up a surprising 215 yards on the ground. Considering MSU’s ground game tonight, that should put some confidence into the Bulldogs after the open date when they head to the Bayou for what should be the swing game of the season.
We’ll have plenty to talk about this week, both on SportsTalk Mississippi, and the Thunder & Lightning Podcast, as the Bulldogs enter their bye with a lot of momentum and a much needed boost.