Alabama Crimson Tide: Know Your Foe – Mississippi State Bulldogs Edition

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File Photo: STARKVILLE, MS - NOVEMBER 11, 2017: Damien Harris #34 of the Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)

The Alabama Crimson Tide faced their first real challenge of the 2018 season on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, Louisiana against the third-ranked LSU Tigers. The LSU offense was not able to progress in this game as the Alabama defense was impenetrable. The Tigers could not get their ground game operating, which led to their inability to pass the ball. LSU’s quarterback Joe Burrow was running for his life all night as the Alabama defensive line was all over him as soon as the ball was snapped.

The Alabama offense was kept in check on the scoreboard, but not in yardage. The LSU defense was able to do two things that no one else has been able to do so far this season, however. Alabama had scored on their opening drive in every game so far this season, but LSU was able to prevent that stat from continuing. The Tigers’ defense was also able to force Tua Tagovailoa to throw his first interception of 2018.

Although LSU played great defense all night and had the crowd as loud as they have been in a long time, it was not enough to stop Alabama as the Tide shut down LSU 29-0. Tagovailoa was able to increase his season passing yardage to 2,361 and his touchdown total to 27. He also rushed for another touchdown bringing his rushing touchdown total to three. The only downside for Alabama was the kicking game. Joseph Bulovas had another rough night as the first extra point attempt was botched and hit the offensive line in the backs. After the third touchdown, his extra point was blocked. He was able to make a short field goal late in the first half.

Looking Ahead

This week Alabama will face a high-powered offense led by an explosive quarterback, Nick Fitzgerald. On Saturday Fitzgerald will lead his Mississippi State Bulldogs into Tuscaloosa, Alabama to try to upset the Tide. The Bulldogs have been up and down this season but made quick work of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs by winning 45-3. When you’re on top, everyone is trying to knock you off, so you must Know Your Foe.

Know Your Foe: Mississippi State Bulldogs Edition

The Mississippi State Bulldogs have been good at times this season but have struggled against good teams. The Bulldogs started the season 3-0 by beating Stephen F. Austin, Kansas State, and Louisiana-Lafayette. They lost their next two to Kentucky and Florida and then beat Auburn easily. After a loss to LSU in Baton Rouge, the Bulldogs rebounded with two more wins over Texas A&M and the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech.

Mississippi State will be facing their toughest test of the season this week as they square off against the unanimous number one team in the nation, the Alabama Crimson Tide. What will it take to knock off the Tide? Outscore them, that’s how. Let’s look at the Mississippi State Offense.

Offense

Mississippi State’s offensive unit has shown flashes of brilliance at times and then they have also been held to single digits when facing a stout defense. They are averaging 29 points per game and 418 yards per game. Here are the key players on offense to watch for:

Quarterback

  • Nick Fitzgerald is a 6’5”, 230-pound senior. He has thrown for 1,252 yards, 10 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Where Fitzgerald is most dangerous is when he gets out of the pocket. He is also the team’s leading rusher with 839 yards on 155 attempts for nine touchdowns.

Running Backs

  • Kylin Hill is a 5’11”, 215-pound sophomore. So far this season, he has 536 yards on 81 carries and three rushing touchdowns. He is also a threat coming out of the backfield. He has 16 receptions for 141 yards and three receiving touchdowns.
  • Aeris Williams is a 6’1”, 215-pound senior. In 2018, he has rushed 46 times for 306 yards and two rushing touchdowns. He is also a receiving threat having caught four passes for 49 yards and one touchdown.

Receivers

  • Osirus Mitchell is a 6’4”, 210-pound sophomore. He has 20 catches for 347 yards and three touchdowns. It is important to note that he had zero receptions against Louisiana Tech.
  • Stephen Guidry is a 6’4”, 190-pound junior. He has 15 receptions for 337 yards and three touchdowns. He is the deep threat for the Bulldogs as he is averaging over 20 yards per catch.

Defense

Mississippi State’s defense has not been great against worthy opponents but has shut down lesser teams’ offenses. In games that the Bulldogs have won, they have only given up eight and a half points per game. However, they have allowed 20 points per game in their three losses. Here are the key defenders for the Bulldogs:

  • Johnathan Abram is a 6’, 215-pound senior defensive back. He leads the team with 68 tackles, one sac, and one interception.
  • Eroll Thompson is a 6’1”, 250-pound sophomore linebacker. He has 62 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions.
  • Mark McLaurin is a 6’2”, 215-pound senior defensive back. He has 58 tackles and one forced fumble.
  • Jeffery Simmons is a 6’4”, 300-pound junior defensive tackle. He has 42 tackles, 11 of which are tackles for loss and two deflected passes.

New Coach

Joe Moorhead is the new head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. He replaced Dan Mullen after he accepted the position as the head coach of the Florida Gators. Moorhead is in his first year as a major program head coach. His experience has been all on the offensive side of the teams that he’s been with. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Pittsburg in 1998. From 2000 to 2003, he was the running backs/quarterbacks’ coach and offensive coordinator at Georgetown University.

He continued his coaching at Akron from 2004 through 2008 as wide receivers’ coach/assistance head coach and then offensive coordinator. He then went to the University of Connecticut as OC and quarterbacks’ coach in 2009. In 2012, he became the head coach at Fordham University. In 2016, Moorhead served as Penn State’s OC for two seasons. He overall record as head coach is 45-16.

Wrap Up and Prediction

Mississippi State is coming off a big win against Louisiana Tech. This past Saturday, their defense was able to practically shut down the Bulldogs’ offense and score at will against their defense. However, Alabama played the number three team in the nation and was able to score 29 points and hold the LSU Tigers scoreless through 60 minutes of football. To say that the Tide met the challenge that LSU presented is an understatement. Mississippi State has their work cut out for them as have every other team that has faced Alabama this season.

Mississippi State will have to play a perfect game, and Alabama will have to play their worst game for this one to even be close. The near impossible task for every team this year has been causing Tagovailoa to make a mistake. It took nine games and 247 straight passing attempts for him to finally throw an interception. Alabama will continue their winning ways as they continue to prove that no other team deserves to be on the field with them. The Tide continues to roll and will win easily 45-10.

Main Photo Credit:

File Photo: STARKVILLE, MS – NOVEMBER 11, 2017: Damien Harris #34 of the Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)

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