MSU Head Coach Moorhead talks about prep for bowl game and recruiting efforts
Mackenzie Salmon, Clarion Ledger
The No. 18 Mississippi State Bulldogs landed in Tampa Thursday afternoon for their New Year’s Day date with the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Though the team hit some unexpected travel delays, the Dogs have settled into their quarters less than a week before the Outback Bowl.
Here are two important notes from head coach Joe Moorhead and senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald as they embark on winning an important bowl game in the grand-scheme of each of their respective careers.
Moorhead confident in preparing for Iowa’s defense
In his two seasons (2016-17) as Penn State’s offensive coordinator, Moorhead’s Nittany Lions nearly doubled Iowa’s offensive output in games against the Hawkeyes. Penn State won those games by a combined score of 62-33.
Some of the Hawkeyes’ personnel has obviously changed over the years, but Moorhead believes he has the upper hand by being able to scheme against them with the Dogs.
“I feel like we have a pretty good idea of what they are going to do on that side of the ball,” Moorhead said.
Still, nothing will come easy against Iowa’s No. 7 ranked total defense. The Hawkeyes play sound defensive football, and Mississippi State struggled mightily against the best defenses it faced this season.
Senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald said he likes Mississippi State’s game plan, but he knows how tough it will be to execute it against a defense that’s stingy against the run and doesn’t make mistakes.
“They are not going to beat themselves,” Fitzgerald said. “They are always going to be in position. You have to make tight throws and good catches if you want to move the ball on them.”
Coaching staff preaches focus during bowl week
Having to juggle multiple practices and team meetings along with bowl activities such as hospital visits and beach days shouldn’t be anything new for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have been to a school-record nine straight bowl games, which means the upperclassmen have been to three-plus.
Moorhead still doesn’t want the extracurricular activities of the week – such as the Tampa Bay Lightning game the team attended Thursday night – to distract his players from the most important objective: beating Iowa.
Veterans like Fitzgerald know the drill. His presence will be paramount in getting the younger guys to act accordingly throughout the weekend.
“The easiest way is to tell them that when we are doing football, you are 100 percent locked in to football,” Fitzgerald said. “That is the only thing that matters. The second that last whistle blows, go have all the fun you want, be back before curfew, and make sure you are looking over your notes and practice film from that day. But, when it is football time it is football time. When it is time to have fun, go enjoy what we have earned.”
Moorhead himself has coached in big bowl games, including the 2017 Rose Bowl as Penn State’s OC and the 2011 Fiesta Bowl as Connecticut’s OC. Though his teams lost both games, it wasn’t either offense’s fault. Penn State scored 49 on the Trojans and still lost.
Mississippi State’s head coach and starting quarterback both know how to balance obligations during bowl weeks, which should have fans of the maroon and white confident heading into next week.
Email Tyler Horka firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @tbhorka on Twitter