Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead’s opening statement from a 45-3 win over Louisiana Tech.
Tyler Horka, Clarion Ledger
STARKVILLE – Joe Moorhead strolled to the podium for his post-game press conference after No. 21 Mississippi State’s 45-3 win over Louisiana Tech. At the same time, No. 1 Alabama put the finishing touches on a 29-0 rout of No. 4 LSU in Baton Rouge.
The Bulldogs took a trip to Death Valley two weeks ago and played their worst game of the year in a 19-3 loss to the Tigers. The disparity in those two scores isn’t a good sign for the Dogs as they head to play the Crimson Tide this Saturday.
Alabama is clearly the best team in the country with sophomore Tua Tagovailoa at the helm. He threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns on an LSU defense that MSU senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald could only muster 59 yards and no scores against.
Fitzgerald has found his form in the two games since, though. He’s thrown for more than 200 yards in back-to-back weeks for the first time since his freshman year.
Moorhead said he wasn’t going to focus on Alabama until he woke up Sunday, but he couldn’t deny the importance of his offense playing well heading into this weekend.
“When you’re heading on the road to play the number one team in the country, you definitely want to have momentum in your favor,” Moorhead said.
Fitzgerald has plenty. He had 243 passing yards and four touchdowns against La. Tech. He also completed 60 percent of his passes, a sign that he has truly simplified his game and stopped over-analyzing opposing defenses like his coaches requested of him after the LSU loss.
Now, he wants to continue to keep it simple against the nation’s top team.
“Go over there and do the same things I’ve been doing the past two weeks,” Fitzgerald said. “Keep everybody calm, keep everybody cool and collected. Don’t let it get into people’s heads that we’re playing Bama.”
On the other side of the ball, the Mississippi State defense is still playing at an elite level. The Dogs didn’t let Louisiana Tech cross the goal line, and they’ve only let their past five opponents do so three combined times.
Linebacker Erroll Thompson said the unit brings a lot of confidence into Tuscaloosa, but the sophomore – who narrowly chose Mississippi State over Alabama during his recruitment – said that confidence is all for naught unless his teammates relentlessly prepare for the Tide’s offense.
“Hopefully right after everybody walks out of this locker room, they’re going to look at some film from the (Alabama vs.) LSU game,” Thompson said. “Hopefully the defense has the same mindset as me because I’m going to go home and try to watch a little bit and see what they did.”
Alabama produced more yards than its season average against an LSU defense that was supposed to be its stiffest test of the year. The Tide rolled up 576 yards, 11 more than its average of 565.6, which leads the nation.
Bama also scores more points than any other team in the country at 51.3 per game. Mississippi State almost allows less than anybody at 12.3 points per game, tied for second nationally. Strength meets strength when Alabama has the ball.
When Mississippi State has it, Fitzgerald must look like the player from the last two weeks and not the one from the three games prior. If he shows ability to hit receivers and protect the ball, which is no small task, then State might have a prayer.
“We have to go there in a very tough environment and go play lights out,” Fitzgerald said.