Suspension in the past: MSU's Fitzgerald moves forward as he returns to starting QB role

Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, right, looks on as Keytaon Thompson warms up prior to last Saturday's game against Stephen F. Austin.

Staff Writer

The question had to be asked to Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald, meeting with the media for the first time since he was suspended for last Saturday’s season-opening game for a violation of team rules, was met with the query regarding the circumstances that led to his punishment.

“I’m good, man,” Fitzgerald told the reporter.

Fitzgerald declined to go into any specifics regarding his actions. Understandably so, for now, it’s all in the past.

Fitzgerald will be back in action this Saturday when the No. 18 Bulldogs travel to Kansas State. For Fitzgerald, he said this week of practice seems almost like week one of the season to him. That was completely apparent to MSU quarterbacks coach Andrew Breiner on Tuesday.

“He’s excited,” Breiner said of Fitzgerald. “I had to tell him to calm down a little bit (at practice).

“He had a different kind of hop to his step starting Sunday.”

This isn’t just any return for Fitzgerald. The signal caller has essentially missed the last three games of his career. He was hurt early in the regular season finale against Ole Miss last November when his ankle was gruesomely broken. Fitzgerald then missed the TaxSlayer Bowl the following month. After an offseason of recovery, Fitzgerald would have returned to the field last Saturday against Stephen F. Austin, but he broke team rules back in March according to MSU first-year head coach Joe Moorhead. That led Moorhead to suspend Fitzgerald for last week’s game.

Fitzgerald was relegated to MSU’s scout team offense in practice last week. All the while, up through the game itself, Fitzgerald maturely handled his suspension according to Moorhead.

“He was mature during the week in meetings and on the field,” Moorhead said of Fitzgerald. “On game day, he was a vocal presence on the sideline. He was a great resource for (backup quarterback Keytaon Thompson) in his second-ever start.

“Everybody makes mistakes, but I think that's part of the process. We need to do as good of a job (as coaches) when things go bad as when things go well. I think Fitzgerald has learned from the experience and he will be better coming out. It'll be very positive moving forward."

Fitzgerald said he indeed took something away from his punishment.

“It was rough,” Fitzgerald said. “I take full responsibility for the reason why I was out. I embraced my role as scout team quarterback when I was in there and tried to give the defense the best look I possibly could.
“I just embraced my leadership role that way.”

Now, Fitzgerald can put everything in his rearview mirror and finally get his senior season underway. It’ll be the first live action he’s seen since the first quarter against the Rebels last year. He hasn’t been hit at all since taking the lick that broke his ankle. However, Fitzgerald insists that he’ll have no hesitations.

“I’m not nervous at all,” Fitzgerald said. “I just know how sore I’m going to be the next day after not having any contact for a while.”

One thing Breiner knows is that Fitzgerald is going into the game prepared.

“He wants all the information as quickly as we can,” Breiner said of Fitzgerald. “He calls and texted me at noon (Monday) and asks, ‘Is the game plan ready?’ I said, ‘Nick, not yet. We’re working on it.’ He says, ‘Well when it’s done, send it to me.’ I said, ‘You’ll get it.’ So he’s eager.”

Fitzgerald won’t have to wait much longer. All healed up and punishment over, it’s finally almost game time again for MSU’s QB-1.

“I’m very excited to be back,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m very excited to get going with my season and try to go get a big road win.”