Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald had one of the most productive performances for a quarterback in SEC history last weekend.
But those 417 yards passing, 119 yards rushing and seven total touchdowns came with a bit of a caveat: The game was against lower-level Samford, which plays in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Still, it was a performance that got the attention of Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.
“Anybody in this league – I don’t care who you’re playing – who can throw for 400 and rush for 100 as a quarterback who’s that big, you’d better start preparing for all kinds of stuff,” Sumlin said. “Because he can spin it, he can put it down and run it and he’s a load when he runs.”
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No. 4 (in the College Football Playoff rankings) Texas A&M (7-1, 4-1 SEC) travels to face Mississippi State (3-5, 1-3) on Saturday. Sumlin said figuring out a way to at least slow down Fitzgerald is paramount.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Fitzgerald has been inconsistent this season, but has had some really good moments like the Samford game. Sumlin said he sees a quarterback who is improving quickly.
“It’s another one of those deals where you get later in the season and quarterbacks who are young and inexperienced are starting to see more things and they’re getting better,” Sumlin said.
Texas A&M would seem to be better equipped than most when it comes to slowing down an imposing quarterback. The Aggies’ formidable defensive line, which includes Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall, has combined for 18 quarterback hurries and 19 tackles for loss so far this season.
“Those guys can just cause havoc up front with a bunch of potential NFL players and possibly first rounders or first picks in the draft,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “You see why they are one of the top teams in America.”
Some other things to watch when Texas A&M travels to Mississippi State:
Fitzgerald’s big day passing against Samford led to some big numbers for his receivers. Donald Gray caught four passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns in the 56-41 win. The junior is the team’s second-leading receiver and could have a bigger role in the offense during the season’s final month.
STATE’S SORRY DEFENSE
Mississippi State’s great performance on offense against Samford couldn’t mask some serious issues on defense. The Bulldogs gave up a whopping 627 total yards one week after giving up 554 total yards in a loss to Kentucky. Mullen said most of the team’s problem is that there has been poor tackling.
Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight has been very productive with the Aggies since coming to the school as a graduate transfer. Knight’s thrown for 1,868 yards and 13 touchdowns while also running for 529 yards and nine touchdowns.
TRAYVEON’S BIG YEAR
Texas A&M freshman running back Trayveon Williams has quickly turned into one of the SEC’s top backs. He’s run for 776 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 7.8 yards per carry. He could become the first true freshman in school history to run for 1,000 yards in a season.
PRODUCTIVE AGGIE DEFENSE
Texas A&M leads the nation with 77 tackles for a loss. That’s 13 more than Alabama, which is No. 2 on the list. The Aggies have had at least 7 TFLs in every game this year, with a season high of 13 against Auburn.
No. 7 Texas A&M at Mississippi State
11 a.m. Saturday, SEC Network