Alabama's Saban has respect for MSU's offensive threats

Nick Saban

Staff Writer

It’s no big secret that Mississippi State was struggling mightily offensively just a few weeks back.

The Bulldogs scored only three touchdowns over a four-game stretch from September 22 to October 20. Points were coming at a premium for MSU.

The last couple of weeks, State has surged back to life by scoring 73 total points and accumulating 916 total yards of offense. The Bulldogs will try to keep it up this weekend when they travel to face top-ranked Alabama.

Despite the fact MSU has been up and down offensively this season, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban has tremendous respect for the threats posed by the Bulldog offense, particularly the Mississippi State offensive line.

“Those guys have done a really good job,” Saban said on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference Wednesday. “The center (Elgton Jenkins) is especially a good player, but this offense they have is very difficult because of the the run-pass options that they have and the quarterback runs that they have. Their line does a really good job executing and I think that’s why they’re one of the best rushing teams in the SEC. You can’t do that unless the offensive line is effective in what they’re doing.”

MSU averages 230.8 yards per game on the ground this season. That is the SEC’s second-best mark. The biggest contributor to that total is Bulldog quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s passing attack has been inconsistent this season, however his legs have remained incredibly productive. The SEC’s all-time leader in rushing yardage by a quarterback has totaled 839 yards on the ground this year. He’s averaged 5.4 yards per carry and 104.9 yards per game.

The last couple of weeks, his arm has come around too as he’s totaled 484 yards through the air with six touchdown passes.

Saban believes limiting Fitzgerald will be key if Alabama wants to avoid an upset from the Bulldogs this weekend.

“We’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for Nick Fitzgerald,” Saban said. “He played really well against us last year and is a dual-threat quarterback who has the capability of running, whether it’s a quarterback run or pulling the ball down or pulling it on a zone-option play or whatever. The guy is as effective as anybody in the country. He’s got a great arm and he’s a very effective passer when he needs to be. This guy’s got to be one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.”

MSU injury update

Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead indicated on Wednesday’s teleconference that he is optimistic that defensive back Jaquarius Landrews will be able to play on Saturday. Moorhead had previously noted on Monday that Landrews is dealing with a lower-body injury.

If Landrews can’t go or is limited, other options at his position include Marcus Murphy, Chris Rayford and C.J. Morgan.

Alabama injury update

Saban provided several injury updates for his own team Wednesday.

Wide receiver Henry Ruggs has battled a leg ailment but went through the full practice on Tuesday. Backup quarterback Jalen Hurts continues to deal with an ankle ailment, but did participate in a limited fashion in Tuesday’s practice, as did wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who has a hamstring injury.

Running back Najee Harris, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, was slated to practice on Wednesday and according to Saban is “doing really well.”