MSU, Kentucky have similar offensive attacks

Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald

Kentucky's Terry Wilson

Staff Writer

The two teams might not be mirror images of one another, but there are many similarities between the 2018 offensive attacks of No. 14 Mississippi State and Kentucky.

When the Bulldogs and Wildcats meet on the field this weekend, each squad will likely be looking for an edge with successful running games while also possessing the threat to pass.

On the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference Wednesday, both Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead and Kentucky coach Mark Stoops praised their opposition’s similar offensive threats.

“I think they’re very similar in terms of the construct,” Moorhead said of the comparison between his offense and the one of Stoops. “A successful run game is based on numbers, angles and grass. I think both of our offenses do a good job of reading second-and-third-level defenders and attempting to put them in conflict and giving the quarterback options of whether to hand the ball off or pull it and run. I think both teams have quarterbacks that can beat you with their arms and their legs. Certainly, the latter helps in the run game.”

Mississippi State boasts a three-headed monster in its rushing attack. The Bulldogs have the SEC’s top rushing offense (311.7 yards per game). It’s the fifth-best rushing offense in the country. Running back Kylin Hill has led the way for MSU with 293 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has 266 yards on the ground with four scores. Meanwhile Aeris Williams has totaled 116 yards rushing with a touchdown.
Couple all that with Fitzgerald’s passing ability – he’s thrown for 397 yards and four scores – and Stoops knows the Wildcats will have their hands full against the Bulldogs come Saturday.

“(Mississippi State) really puts a lot of pressure on you, running for 300 yards a game and having the ability to throw,” Stoops said. “Their total offense and scoring offense, it all starts with them being physical with a talented back in Hill and adding Fitzgerald, it puts stress on you.”

Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson might not be quite as well known as Fitzgerald, but he boast some of the same traits that have made Fitzgerald successful. This season for the Wildcats, Wilson has passed for 392 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 223 yards and two scores.

Those kinds of numbers out of a signal caller look all too familiar to Moorhead.

“I think it’s a lot of the same ways that we present challenges,” Moorhead said. “The quarterback is a very good passer within the pocket and outside the pocket. He can extend plays with his feet and he’s got a very good completion percentage this year. He’s equally as dangerous on designed quarterback runs or when a play breaks down and he scrambles to extend. I think he’s a guy you have to worry about as a pocket passer. He’s a guy you have to worry about scrambling and making a play either running it or throwing it.”

Also like MSU, Kentucky has multiple rushing threats. Beyond Wilson, the Wildcats have running back Benny Snell, Jr. He has the SEC’s second-most rushing yardage this season with 375 yards on the ground.

With a pair of playmaking quarterbacks and each team featuring dynamic running backs, it makes for an intriguing game between the teams. The similar tendencies will come to a head on Saturday. Kickoff in Lexington, Kentucky, is set for 6 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.