STARKVILLE, MS (WLBT) - Mississippi State remembers the heartbreak of a year ago.
The Bulldogs held a 24-17 lead on #1 Alabama early in the 4th quarter. But the Crimson Tide found the end zone twice in the final ten minutes, including the game-winner with :25 left, as the eventual national champions escaped with the victory.
“Stuff happens. Games don’t go the way you want it to go, especially the game of football,” says Mississippi State defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons. “This year, we’re looking forward to finishing way better than what we did last year.”
“You just take that as motivation and a little bit of extra confidence,” quarterback Nick Fitzgerald said of the close loss in 2017. “Knowing how well we played last year and knowing we can do that again.”
But to win, the Dogs must, at the very least, slow down Heisman front runner Tua Tagovailoa. Alabama’s quarterback has thrown 27 touchdown passes to just one interception this year.
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop says their coaches have likened Tagovailoa this week to NFL stars like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, and Michael Vick.
Alabama’s offensive talent goes well beyond just the quarterback. The Crimson Tide lead the nation in total offense and scoring.
“When they get on you, they don’t let up,” says Shoop. “In the first half, they’re going to try and score 100 if they possibly can.”
“And it’s our job not to let them,” added Shoop.
On the flip side, it’s Fitzgerald worrying Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
“A dual-threat quarterback who is really difficult to defend and puts a lot of pressure on the defense,” Saban said of Fitzgerald. “This may be one of the biggest challenges we’ve had all season long.”
“You don’t get too many opportunities to play the #1 team in the country,” says Simmons. “I feel like this a great opportunity for the team cause a lot of people aren’t giving us a chance right now. We’re not thinking about the outsiders right now. I know we’re coming to play Saturday.”