Scouting report: Mississippi State opens post-Nick Fitzgerald era

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By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a 12-part series on each of Kentucky 12 opponents this season. 

GAME 4: Kentucky at Mississippi State, Saturday, Sept. 21, TBA

LAST YEAR: Kentucky 28, Mississippi State 7.

COACH: Joe Moorhead, second season. Record at school: 8-5. Overall, 46-18.

LOOKING BACK: In his first season in the Southeastern Conference, Moorhead guided the Bulldogs to wins over Auburn, Texas A&M and a 35-3 win over Mississippi in the Egg Bowl. Surprisingly Mississippi State ranked second in the Southeastern Conference in rushing, averaging 222.6 yards per game. The Bulldogs reached the postseason but dropped a 27-22 loss to Iowa in the Outback Bowl. 

LOOKING AHEAD: The Bulldogs lost quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to graduation and Kenton Thompson appears to be the frontrunner to replace Fitzgerald, who threw for 1,767 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Wide receivers Stephon Guidry and Osirus Mitchell also return after collecting more than 400 yards apiece last season. The Bulldogs return running back Kylin Hill, who rushed for 734 yards and scored for touchdowns. Hill and the team’s two returning wideouts will be counted on to provide the load. Mississippi State’s defense ranked No. 1 in all defensive categories in the conference and allowed just an average of 13.2 points per game. The Bulldogs also ranked second nationally in points allowed. The Bulldogs have to replace defensive end Montez Sweat but will count on linebacker Erroll Thompson who collected 87 tackles last season. “We lost a lot of personality and production on both sides of the ball that we need to replace, Moorhead said. “Offensively, we’re going to have a great quarterback battle between K.T. and Tommy Stevens. We have great youth at that position, a lot of talent. Kylin Hill I think at running back is posed for a breakout season. He was in the several hundred yard range last year, missed a few games for injury, but I think he is ready to go and have a great season.”

CONFERENCE: The Gators are a preseason pick to finish second behind Georgia in the SEC East. 

COACH QUOTE: “Our football goals, as always, we want to have a winning no-conference record. We want to have a winning conference record. You do those things, and that puts you in position to be in the hunt for the SEC Championship. We want to retain the Egg Bowl. Our floor for success is bowl eligibility. Our ceiling for success is winning the SEC and compete for the national championship.”

SCHEDULE:

August

Aug. 31 vs. Louisiana at New Orleans 

September

Sept. 7 Southern Mississippi

Sept. 14 Kansas State

Sept. 21 Kentucky

Sept. 28 at Auburn

October

Oct. 12 at at Tennessee 

Oct. 19 LSU

Oct. 26 at Texas A&M

November

Nov. 2 at Arkansas

Nov. 16 Alabama

Nov. 23 Abilene Christian

Nov. 28 Ole Miss

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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