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Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald’s versatility will put pressure on UK defense

Safety Mike Edwards (7) and linebacker Kash Daniel (56) will be tested by Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

There’s not just one thing that makes Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who was virtually unstoppable for the Kentucky defense in last year’s 45-7 State win, so difficult to defend.

“He has experience. He’s physical. He makes plays when he has to. He’s talented with his arm,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Monday. “As always, when you play a team like this that’s not only physical at running the ball but they have a physical quarterback and they use quarterback runs, that makes you play with numbers, and then he’s talented enough and their receiving corp and tight ends are talented enough to hurt you throwing the ball. So, it puts a lot of pressure on you.”

Stoops said Fitzgerald “looks good” to him after missing the opening game due to a team suspension.

Kentucky hopes redshirt freshman quarterback Danny Clark, who ran for a score against Murray State, can help prepare the defense to stop Fitzgerald Saturday night.

“Danny is similar to Fitzgerald because he’s one of those great big strong runners and can also throw it. He’s been practicing with our offense, so he doesn’t give us the scout team look, but when we do go good against good, we may get some looks with him in there,” Stoops said.

Mississippi State’s defense shut down UK running back Benny Snell last year and has been dominant in three games this season. Stoops said, as always, that the Bulldogs are “very long, they’re big, they’re physical and they’re experienced” going into Saturday night’s game.

“They have, I want to say, three seniors on their front who are very big and athletic and one junior. Then across the rest of their defense a bunch of juniors, seniors and they sprinkle in a couple sophomores. They’re an experienced group and big, physical group. Very active,” the UK coach said.

Stoops said in any SEC game, you better match the opponent’s physicality to survive.

“Certainly you can look to the success of Mississippi State because of the way they play. They’re as physical as anybody you’re going to play in this league, if not more,” Stoops said. “So you have to match it. It starts there, but, again, there’s a lot of other things that are going to go into it. But that’s a big piece of it.”

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