Slowing down Fitzgerald key for Auburn’s defense

Bryan Matthews, Senior Editor
Auburn Sports

AUBURN | Nick Fitzgerald threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 88 yards and two more touchdowns in a 37-7 win over LSU two weeks ago.

Last week, Fitzgerald was held to 83 yards passing and 47 rushing with no touchdowns and two interceptions in a 31-3 loss at Georgia.

You better believe No. 13 Auburn will be keying on the junior quarterback this Saturday when No. 24 Mississippi State visits Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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Greg M. Cooper/USA Today

“It starts with their quarterback. We’re very impressed with him,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He is a true dual-threat guy. He’s like a running back in the backfield, which presents a lot of problems with the plus-one run game for defenses. He’s got where he throws the ball extremely accurate when he has time. There’s going to be a big challenge for our defense.”

On the season, Fitzgerald has completed 57-of-99 passes (57.6 percent) for 626 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s rushed for 287 yards and five touchdowns on 41 carries.

MSU’s offense features RPOs and uses the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Fitzgerald running between the tackles at times.

“He has a great arm. He's a big quarterback that can also run,” Auburn senior safety Tray Matthews said. “We faced him last year so we know what he can do.”

The Tigers rolled to a 38-14 win at Mississippi State last season with Fitzgerald one of a few standouts for the Bulldogs. He completed 17-of-34 passes for 181 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and rushed for 61 yards on 17 carries.

How will the Auburn’s 4th-ranked defense try to slow him down this season? Matthews doesn’t want to give away too much.

“The key is to keep him in the pocket,” he said. “I don’t really want to speak too much on it just yet. I don’t want any material getting out there. We’re just looking forward to getting after those guys.”

Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. CT on ESPN.

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