BATON ROUGE – Childhood dreams remembered can be vivid, but maybe not always that specific.
That occurred to Mississippi State sophomore Nick Fitzgerald after gaining a school record 195 rushing yards for a quarterback on 17 carries in the Bulldogs’ 27-14 victory over South Carolina last week.
“It’s been my dream since I was like 6 years old to be an SEC quarterback and playing in an SEC football game,” he said after the game. “So I think I made my 6-year-old self proud. It feels great.”
But not right off.
“I’m a lot more sore than I thought I’d be back then, so there’s that,” he said. “I don’t really remember how much I imagined back then, but I hope it was as good as this.”
Next for Fitzgerald and State (1-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) is No. 22 LSU (1-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium on ESPN2.
Not even Dak Prescott, who played at Haughton High near Shreveport and is now the Dallas Cowboys’ rookie starting quarterback, rushed for as many yards as Fitzgerald in his stellar career at State.
“Nick is a different style runner than Dak was,” State coach Dan Mullen said. “He’s faster than Dak and a little bit more explosive than Dak with the ball in his hands. I don’t know if he’s as physical as Dak was. It’s a little different style of running.”
Prescott, who is 6-foot-2 and 225, left a lasting impression on LSU in 2014 as he passed for 268 yards and rushed for 105 with a 56-yard touchdown through the center of the field in a 34-29 State victory, breaking a 14-game winning streak by the Tigers over the Bulldogs.
“That was a rough night for us,” LSU senior middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith said. “He got a ton of yards on us. Dak was one of the better players I’ve played against – just the way he operated the team.”
Senior cornerback Tre’Davious White, a Shreveport native who knew Prescott in high school, remembers that game, too.
“No, we’re not going to miss Dak at all,” White said. “But this guy is quite similar to him. Fitzgerald (6-5, 230) has the ability to throw the ball deep and to run the ball. I saw a couple clips on ESPN. I look forward to watching him on film. I’m going to get home and do my scouting on him and see what I can do to try to make some big plays in this game.”
And just the week before in the Bulldogs’ season opening, 21-20 upset loss to 28-point underdog South Alabama, Fitzgerald was just 0-for-3 passes with two rushes for 11 yards in limited play. Junior Damian Williams, who played at Rummel High in Metairie, played most of the game and completed 20 of 28 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 101 yards on 12 carries.
Fitzgerald, though, took over in week two partly because he has a stronger arm and is thus more of a deep threat.
“You look at what he did, he set a school record for rushing by a quarterback,” Mullen said. “But it wasn’t like he was making dynamic runs and making seven people miss. He made good reads and the line blocked well. If he executes well, I think you can see that he will have success. Hopefully, he just looks at the things he did well and continues to do those things well.”
Fitzgerald says State is a completely different team than the one that blew a 17-0 lead against South Alabama.
“I don’t think you’ll ever see us like we were that week. We’ve moved past it,” he said.
“He’s a big guy, a big, fast guy, so we’re going to have our work cut out for us,” White said.
(© 2016 WWL)