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Cessna: Aggies aiming for better results against Mississippi State quarterback Fitzgerald

October 24, 2017 GMT

You don’t have to remind Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin that Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald ran 74 yards for a touchdown on the team’s first play from scrimmage in last season’s 35-28 loss to the Bulldogs.

That was the first of 51 plays involving Fitzgerald, who accounted for 391 total yards and four touchdowns. Fitzgerald guided Mississippi State to a 14-0 lead and the Bulldogs never looked back.

“I think everybody knows that Nick Fitzgerald is a problem, that’s the best way for me to put it,” said Sumlin on his radio show Monday night.

A&M, even with a 33-14 loss at Alabama, had been ranked No. 4 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings heading into the Mississippi State game. But the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Fitzgerald almost single-handedly upset the Aggies.

“We had a great start to the game,” Fitzgerald said. “From there, we just controlled the line of scrimmage and successfully moved the ball up and down the field. We would have had more points if I’d protected the ball in the red zone. I’m going to have to do that this year. It’s going to be a hostile environment with a lot of people who are really loud. It’s going to be crazy.”

Fitzgerald is having a solid season, averaging 248.6 yards total offense per game to rank 47th in the country. He’s coming off a solid effort in a 45-7 victory over Kentucky. Fitzgerald threw for 155 yards on 18-of-26 passing with a touchdown along with 115 yards rushing on 12 carries with two scores.

“I have respect for Nick Fitzgerald,” Sumlin said. “He’s run away from a bunch of folks in our league. Guys can’t catch him when he gets going.”

Fitzgerald needed a monster game last year for the 3-5 Bulldogs to win. This year he has more help. The defense is better and against Kentucky the Bulldogs (5-2) didn’t have a turnover.

“They do a nice job with their scheme offensively,” Sumlin said.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said that’s the way his team can have an advantage.

“If we see things that the defense is going to give us, we try to utilize it,” Mullen said. “We also try to utilize our players to get the right guys at the right spots to go make plays. We’re constantly trying to create mismatches out there on the field with different personnel groupings.”

Texas A&M-Auburn football game on Nov. 4 at Kyle Field will kick at 11 a.m. and be on ESPN.

CBS will have a doubleheader that day, featuring South Carolina at Georgia at 2:30 p.m. and LSU at Alabama at 7 p.m. The other games will be Massachusetts at Mississippi State, 11 a.m. (SEC Network); Florida at Missouri, 11 a.m. (ESPN2); Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt, noon (ESPNU); Ole Miss at Kentucky, 3 p.m. (SEC Network); Coastal Carolina at Arkansas, 3 p.m. (SEC Network alternate); and Southern Miss at Tennessee, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network).

I thought the A&M-Auburn game would kick at 2:30 or 7 with LSU-Alabama taking the other slot. I think the A&M-Auburn game is a much better matchup, but on second thought, it makes sense to feature Georgia because the league has a chance to put two teams in the playoffs. Auburn, though, catches a big break by playing at Kyle at 11 a.m. instead of a night game.

This will be A&M’s third 11 a.m. kick of the season. The others were Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas. A&M has yet to be picked for CBS’ 2:30 p.m. game. A&M has had at least one CBS 2:30 p.m. game each season since joining the Southeastern Conference including four appearances in 2013 and three appearances last season and in 2014.

Sumlin and his staff with no game last weekend were on the road recruiting.

“It wasn’t a week off for me last week,” joked Sumlin. “We were all over the place last week.”

This is the first year for the early signing period. The 72-hour period will be from Dec. 20-22.

“Guys are making decisions earlier,” Sumlin said. “The whole calendar, everything has been pushed up.”

A&M, with 16 known commitments, has the 16th ranked class according to rivals.com.

Mississippi State junior defensive end Montez Sweat was the SEC defensive lineman of the week with seven tackles, 2.5 of them for losses and junior teammate Deion Calhoun was the offensive lineman of the week as the right guard graded 93 percent and had three knockdowns. LSU junior running back Derrius Guice was the offensive player of the week after 276 yards rushing in a 40-24 victory over Ole Miss. Alabama senior defensive back Levi Wallace and Auburn junior defensive end Jeff Holland were defensive players of the week. Wallace had six tackles, two of them sacks in a 45-7 victory over Tennessee. Holland forced two fumbles, recovered a fumble and had 1.5 sacks in a 52-20 victory over Arkansas. LSU freshman place-kicker Connor Culp hit four field goals to earn special teams honors. Auburn freshman defensive lineman Nick Coe (six tackles) and Missouri sophomore tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (three touchdown catches in a 68-21 victory over Idaho) were the freshmen of the week.