- Associated Press - Friday, November 2, 2018

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - The emergence of Mississippi State’s passing game was a welcome sign in last weekend’s win over Texas A&M.;

But it wasn’t just the improvement shown by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.

The players catching it took a big step forward as well.

Osirus Mitchell and Stephen Guidry both made important plays in the win over the Aggies and No. 21 Mississippi State (5-3) needs that trend to continue through November, beginning when it hosts Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

Mitchell caught a team-high six passes against Texas A&M; for 96 yards, including a touchdown. Guidry caught three passes for 130 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown on the Bulldogs’ opening possession.

“I hadn’t been in the end zone in a minute, so it felt good,” Guidry said.

Guidry also had a crucial catch during the fourth quarter when Fitzgerald ran out of the pocket on a broken play and found Guidry in the middle of the field. The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder took the ball 84 yards downfield to set up another touchdown.

Coach Joe Moorhead said that was great improvisation, but it was also part design. He said there are certain rules the offense has in a scramble situation, and the execution by Fitzgerald and Guidry show the offense is growing.

“I think it goes back to the balance aspect of wanting to run and pass it with equal effectiveness and if one of the two parts are going to get shut down, being able to lean to other part,” Moorhead said.

Louisiana Tech (6-2) enters the game on a three-game winning streak, having beat UTSA, UTEP and Florida Atlantic. Louisiana Tech has already played one game against an SEC opponent this season, losing to LSU 38-21 in September.

“We have an unbelievable challenge ahead of us,” Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz said. “This is a very, very talented team.”

Here are a few things to watch when the Bulldogs host Louisiana Tech on Saturday:

MORE THAN THE LINE

The defensive line - which includes stars Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons - gets a big chunk of the credit when discussing Mississippi State’s excellent defense. But there are others around those two who are having great seasons. Linebacker Erroll Thompson is second on the team with 53 tackles and had a crucial interception in the fourth quarter of the team’s win over Texas A&M.; Safety Johnathan Abram leads the Bulldogs with 62 tackles.

RUN NICK RUN

Fitzgerald might have had some success in the passing game during last week’s win against Texas A&M;, but there’s no doubt the Bulldogs are at their best when he’s also running. The quarterback owns the school record with 18 games of at least 100 yards rushing and Mississippi State has a 15-3 record in those games.

TAKING CARE OF THE BALL

Mississippi State has had 387 consecutive rushing attempts without losing a fumble, dating back to the Egg Bowl last season. The streak includes 308 rushing attempts this season. The Bulldogs are the only team in the Football Bowl Subdivision to not lose a fumble.

KEEP AN EYE ON FERGUSON

Mississippi State’s passing game will get a test from Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson. He leads the nation with 10½ sacks so far this season, which gives him 38 for his career. He needs six more sacks this year to tie Terrell Suggs for the most in a college career.

NO PUSHOVER

Louisiana Tech has already shown that it’s not a pushover for a Southeastern Conference opponent. LSU beat Louisiana Tech 38-21 in a game that was much closer than expected. LSU built a 24-0 lead in the first half before Louisiana Tech responded with 21 unanswered points. The Tigers finally pulled away late in the fourth quarter.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP .

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 .


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