Rough night: Fitzgerald acknowledges poor effort in MSU loss

Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald prepares to throw a pass.

Staff Writer

“I’ve just got to be better.”

Those were the words out of Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald’s mouth late Saturday night. Fitzgerald’s No. 22 Bulldogs had just fallen 19-3 to No. 5 LSU. The big, athletic MSU signal caller didn’t hide who he thought was one of the players most responsible – himself.

“We have to be able to throw the ball and throw the ball well,” Fitzgerald said. “That falls on my shoulders.”

It was indeed a poor night down in Baton Rouge for Fitzgerald. On an evening the Bulldog offense never found the end zone, Fitzgerald struggled mightily. On the bright side of things for him, Fitzgerald did run for 131 yards, although 40 of those came on one big scamper in the first quarter. However he was just 8-for-24 in the passing game for just 59 yards. Even worse, Fitzgerald threw four interceptions.

“I’m confident I can throw the ball anywhere on the field, but obviously I just didn’t do that well,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve got to throw it to my team and not theirs. It starts with that.”

MSU (4-3, 1-3) likely wouldn’t have even needed much out of Fitzgerald on Saturday as the Bulldog defense was absolutely dominant yet again. The unit that already had the nation’s top-ranked scoring defense coming in held the Tigers to just 239 total yards of offense.

LSU (7-1, 4-1) managed just one touchdown. That came early in the first quarter when the Tigers picked off Fitzgerald and started a drive just 3 yards shy of the goal line.

Other than that, all the Tigers could muster all night long was four field goals. Yet that was plenty as the Bulldogs couldn’t get anything at all going offensively.

It has become a disturbing trend for MSU. The Bulldogs have now scored seven points or less in three of their four Southeastern Conference games.

“Ultimately, whether it’s on the ground or in the air, we’ve got to find a way to get points on the board,” MSU head coach Joe Moorhead said. “We’re not doing that right now.”

The only points Mississippi State did put up came on Jace Christmann’s 19-yard field goal in the first quarter. Other than that, it was a night full of frustration.

Fitzgerald did occasionally find success with his legs, but it was nowhere near enough to make up the difference for his limited passing attack.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Fitzgerald said. “Obviously as a quarterback, you shouldn’t just be running the ball. You should be back there throwing the ball around. That comes down to me making the throws, making the right protection checks, making the right reads on the defense and getting us where we need to go, then ultimately just putting the ball in a place where our team can catch it.”

Despite Fitzgerald’s struggles, Moorhead insisted after the game he gave no thought to inserting backup quarterback Keytaon Thompson. As for the weeks ahead though as the Bulldogs seek to breathe life into their offense?

“Every position we evaluate and see who gives us the best opportunity to win,” Moorhead said. “We’ll sit down (today), look at the tape, then make decisions for (next week’s game against) Texas A&M and moving forward.”

While Moorhead and the MSU coaching staff figure things out on their end, Fitzgerald says he’s focused on tying up his own loose ends. Immediately after Saturday’s game, Fitzgerald seemed a bit baffled. He’s seen success in the passing game on MSU’s practice fields during the week, but hasn’t been seeing that success translate to SEC Saturdays.

Fitzgerald doesn’t know exactly what the problem is. All he knows is it has to be fixed and fixed in a hurry or the next five weeks won’t be kind at all for the Bulldogs.

“Honestly, I couldn’t tell you (what’s wrong),” Fitzgerald said. “I’m going to watch film. I’m going to be very critical of myself like I always am and go from there.
“Whatever I haven’t been doing I have to change that and figure out a way to be better.”