Mississippi State starts tough stretch with No. 12 LSU
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) Mississippi State should know by the end of September whether it’s going to be a contender in the Southeastern Conference.
The Bulldogs (2-0) have a difficult stretch of games over the next three weeks, starting with Saturday’s conference opener against No. 12 LSU (2-0). Mississippi State then will travel to play No. 13 Georgia on Sept. 23 and No. 15 Auburn on Sept. 30.
Mississippi State has looked good in its first two games of the season, easily beating Charleston Southern 49-0 and Louisiana Tech 57-21. The stakes are much higher now that SEC play is about to begin.
”Everything’s different,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. ”If (the players) need me to motivate them, they’ve got problems. They’re messed up if they need me to motivate them for a game like this. They don’t need a big rallying cry this week.”
LSU has dominated the series since the turn of the century, winning 16 of the past 17 meetings. But the competition has tightened in recent years: Mississippi State won 34-29 in 2014 and LSU had close wins in both ’15 (21-19) and ’16 (23-20).
LSU’s defense has given up just 10 points through the first two games of the season, including a shutout of BYU. Mississippi State’s offense – led by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald – has already scored 106 points this season. Fitzgerald has thrown for five touchdowns and run for three more this season.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron called him ”a complete quarterback, in my mind.”
”He’s a good decision-maker,” Orgeron said. ”He’s a good runner. He can scramble. And he can throw the deep ball.”
A few more things to watch when Mississippi State hosts LSU:
LSU WELCOMES KEY’S RETURN: The Tigers are expected to have their leading pass rusher Arden Key back for Saturday’s game after he missed the first two games of the season following shoulder surgery. Key had 12 sacks last season.
BETTER PASSING: LSU’s running game gets most of the publicity on offense, but the Tigers were very efficient through the air last weekend. Quarterback Danny Etling was 8 of 14 passing for 227 yards and one touchdown. He completed five passes of 20 yards or more, including one that gained 48 yards.
HELPING FITZGERALD: The Mississippi State quarterback has been one of the most productive in the SEC over the past two seasons, but he’ll likely need some help against LSU. The most likely candidates: RB Aeris Williams, who has run for 190 yards this season, and WR Donald Gray, who has caught seven passes for 76 yards and a touchdown.
SUPER SIMMONS: Mississippi State DT Jeffery Simmons had the best came of his career last week against Louisiana Tech. He scored two touchdowns – one on a blocked punt that he recovered in the end zone and another when he scooped up a fumble and ran 90 yards for the score. The Bulldogs need him to have a big play or two against LSU.
KICKING WOES: Mississippi State freshman kicker Tucker Day has struggled during the first two weeks, making 2 of 4 field goals and 8 of 10 extra points. He had two extra-point attempts blocked last weekend against Louisiana Tech. Mullen could stick with Day or go with another freshman Jace Christmann, who is 4 of 4 on extra points.
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