No. 5 LSU is coming off an exhilarating 36-16 victory over previously No. 2-ranked Georgia last Saturday, but now the Tigers must maintain their focus as they prepare to host No. 22 Mississippi State on Saturday in Baton Rouge, La.
Not only has Mississippi State (4-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) seemingly found its stride, pounding Auburn 23-9 on Oct. 6, but coach Joe Moorhead’s run-oriented team also has had the luxury of a week off while getting ready for the Tigers (6-1, 3-1).
With LSU set to host No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 3 in a game that could decide the SEC West, coach Ed Orgeron knows his players can’t let up following the 20-point rout of Georgia in which LSU compiled 475 yards in total offense, including 275 yards rushing, converted all four fourth-down attempts and scored 17 points in the fourth quarter.
“It’s just a feel,” Orgeron said when asked about how he hopes to keep his players on an even keel. “Been coaching for 35 years, trying to feel the pulse of the team. Look at practice, see if we’re practicing hard enough, No. 1. No. 2, if we’re practicing too hard, scale back. Know that each week is going to be different. You’re dealing with 18- to 22-year-old men.”
Orgeron shouldn’t have to do too much convincing to have his players wary of the threat the Bulldogs pose. Last year, Mississippi State routed LSU 37-7 in Starkville, and that’s not something the Tigers will soon forget.
“We still have that taste in our mouth from last year,” Orgeron said. “They out-physicaled us on both sides of the football.”
In their dominant performance against Auburn, the Bulldogs went back to their strength — a pounding running attack. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has had trouble with accuracy, but he is a load to tackle on read-option runs. He and running back Kylin Hill combined for more than 300 rushing yards in the upset win over Auburn.
“He is a very dangerous runner,” Orgeron said of Fitzgerald. “He can pick and choose his holes. He likes to run them between the tackles. Big, strong quarterback. He’s very dangerous. He can get up the field, can make you miss. Very smart with the football, makes decisions. This is going to be one of the best quarterbacks we see all year.”
Moorhead, Mississippi State’s first-year coach, isn’t overemphasizing last year’s hammering of LSU. He knows it will be difficult playing in front of 100,000 Tigers fans.
“To me more than anything, the great thing about college football is the passion of the fan base,” Moorhead said. “They get fired up and get after you and they’re into the game and they’re going to make it a challenging atmosphere. This is a line-of-scrimmage football league, and the margin of error is slim.”
LSU guard Garrett Brumfield, who sustained a knee injury Sept. 22, practiced this week but is not expected to play against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are healthy coming off their bye week.