Coach Derrick Fitzgerald, who is the head coach of the Toombs County Middle School Bullpup football and basketball teams and is an assistant coach for the football Bulldogs, has a son, Nick, who is shakin’ up the SEC and college football.
On Saturday, Nick, the starting quarterback for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, was a key figure in a major upset over fourth ranked Texas A&M. The former Richmond Hill QB completed 18-of-31 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. However, on the ground is where the 6-5, 230 pound sophomore really did some serious damage to the Aggie defense. For the fourth straight game Fitzgerald scored two rushing touchdowns and that is the first time that has been done by a MSU player since 1970. Fitzgerald ran for 182 yard on 20 carries. He opened his day with a 74-yard touchdown run on MSU’s first offensive play and he scored the Bulldogs final TD, in the 35-28 upset, on a tough four yard run. Most write ups of the game called the run, in which Fitzgerald pushed at least four Aggies into the end zone, simply bruising.
Coach Fitzgerald said that Nick had a similar type run against Thomas County Central in the first round of the state playoffs in 2013 and he scored the game winning touchdown in a 13-7 Richmond Hill win. “It was a tie game and the ball was on the three-yard line,” the coach said.”It kind of looked like they had stuffed him, but he kind of squirmed and kept driving and literally kept pushing and rode over a guy and squirmed his way in to the end zone.”
Coach Fitzgerald wasn’t able to make the A&M game. On the Friday prior to the game he was in Louisville scouting the Screven County/Jefferson County game and on Saturday he attended a Bulldog staff meeting.
“I got to talk to him for a little while and he was pretty excited for him and the team,” coach Fitzgerald said on Monday after a Bulldog practice. “It finally felt like they all clicked at once and the defense and the offensive line jelled. They were going up against a team that was averaging three to four sacks a game and they were held to none and he was pretty excited about not getting hit as much.”
In his last two games, including a home game against Samford from the Southern Conference, Fitzgerald has thrown for 626 yards and seven touchdowns and he has run for 311 and four more TD’s. His numbers against Samford were astounding- 417 passing yards with five TD’s and 119 rushing with two more scores.
After his last two games Nick has become a subject on the Paul Finebaum Show on the SEC TV Network. “What I will give Mississippi State is that quarterback, that man Fitzgerald is going to be a great heir apparent to Dak Prescott,” said a caller to the show and the host agreed. Later in the show MSU head coach Dan Mullen talked about Fitzgerald. “He has one of the hardest jobs that you can imagine, almost in sports which is coming in and replacing a legend,” Mullen said. “He is a very different player than Dak Prescott. You see him progressing through out the year with more confidence in his reading and his play making. He is a great athlete, runs the ball very well and now he is starting to make those plays and help us win football games.”
Coach Fitzgerald did see Nick play BYU. He traveled to Provo, Utah and watched Mississippi State lose in double overtime 28-21. Nick threw one touchdown pass and scored two times on the ground including one in overtime in which he leaped over the defense. That flying touchdown reminded his father of an eight-yard run for a first down which he had against Effingham County. One that play the outside linebacker tried to cut his legs out and he sent Nick flying through the air. “The game itself was probably one of the best ballgames that I have seen, back and forth. You just hate to lose in double overtime like that,” coach Fitzgerald added.
On November 12 the Bulldogs will take a short trip to Tuscaloosa to play the number one ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. “Coach (Travis) Blewitt and I had bus duty on Monday and we were talking about the game from Saturday and he said you realize on Sunday morning Nick Saban had to get up and look at game film and he realized we got to game plan for this kid and how we are going to stop him. It’s kind of surreal moment when you realize probably the best coach in the country is trying to figure out how to stop your kid,” coach Fitzgerald said.
Sure enough at his Monday press conference Saban was asked about preparing for Nick. “When you are playing a team in which the quarterback can run it’s almost like the old wildcat where they had a running back at quarterback. But, that couldn’t throw, this guy can throw.” Saban said and then he continued on with a detailed explanation of how it could effect the Tides defense which is ranked, second statistically, behind the University of Michigan.
The Mississippi State at Alabama game will air on ESPN at noon.
2015 Y-101 story on Nick Fitzgerald
|2016 Game Log||Passing||Rushing|
|9/3||South Alabama||L 21-20||0||3||0||0.0||0||0||0||0.0||2||11||5.5||6||0|
|9/10||South Carolina||W 27-14||19||29||178||65.5||31||2||1||132.9||17||195||11.5||74||0|
|10/14||@BYU||L 28-21 (2OT)||17||36||214||47.2||44||1||2||95.2||16||41||2.6||22||2|
|11/5||Texas A&M||W 35-28||18||31||209||58.1||60||2||2||123.1||20||182||9.1||74||2|