- Mississippi State will need a high-powered offense to compete in the SEC West, and it got a big boost in Week 2 with the return of Nick Fitzgerald and the emergence of Kylin Hill.
Big things are expected out of Mississippi State after the hiring of former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead after Dan Mullen bolted to Gainesville to join the Florida Gators.
With a new emphasis on downfield passing while keeping elements of the spread offense with plenty of run-pass option mixed in, the Bulldogs’ success in the loaded SEC West will be predicated on keeping up with the high-powered offenses of Alabama and Auburn.
In Week 2, what looked like one of the better non-conference games at the beginning of season turned into a sloppy, penalty-filled affair as the Bulldogs bullied their way to an easy 31–10 win.
Nick Fitzgerald is back, and Kylin Hill has arrived
Senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald saw his first action of the season after suffering a gruesome ankle injury in the loss in last season’s Egg Bowl and a one-game suspension for violating team rules, which he served in the season-opening win over Stephen F. Austin. Filling in for Fitzgerald last week, Keytaon Thompson completed only 13 of his 31 passes (albeit for 364 yards).
Fitzgerald went 11 of 27 for 154 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas State, but he also had a bad interception and multiple overthrows. He showed no ill effects from that ankle injury though, finishing with 159 yards on the ground.
That wasn't the Bulldogs' most memorable rushing performance of the day, however. That honor is reserved for sophomore running back Kylin Hill, who finished with 211 rushing yards and three total touchdowns, finishing off the Wildcats with a punishing 16-yard score to cap an eight-play, 76-yard drive early in the fourth quarter. From Chase Edmonds at Fordham to Saquon Barkley at Penn State, the lead back in Moorhead's offense has traditionally racked up big numbers, and Hill could be the next in line after announcing his arrival as the engine of Mississippi State's 384-yard rushing effort.
The cupboard is full
Moorhead couldn’t have been put in a better position to succeed in the immediate future in Starkville.
Mullen left him with loads of talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Kansas State had trouble all day with the Bulldogs' defensive line, especially junior Jeffrey Simmons and senior Montez Sweat, who is the SEC’s returning sack leader.
The linebackers and defensive backs helped swarm ball carries, holding the Wildcats' longest run of the day to 16 yards. Overall, Kansas State could only muster 213 yards of offense, including going a pitiful 2 for 13 on third down.
A long season ahead for the Wildcats
Over the years, Kansas State has been known for not beaten itself with silly turnovers at inopportune times. After coughing up the ball only 13 times last year, the Wildcats have already given it up five times in 2018.
The Wildcats also have major problems at the quarterback position and stopping the run. Skylar Thompson started the game and was ineffective before being replaced by Alex Delton, who did no better.
A bigger concern for Kansas State has to be its rushing defense. Mississippi State broke off big chunks of real estate all game and when a Kansas State defender was in the area, they were besieged with poor angles which led to sloppy tackling.
The Wildcats will have issues moving forward if they can’t get more out of their running game (3.2 yards a carry) and fix their atrocious run defense. The issues have one week to be fixed before they travel to Morgantown to take on West Virginia.