October 7, 2018 7:03:20 AM
Tweet length review of the game
And just like that, a really, really good season is back on the table. It's still not the most likely option, but it's on the table.
- MSU held the ball longer in the second half (21 minutes, 39 seconds) than Auburn had it the entire game (18 minutes, 7 seconds).
- A product of MSU having the ball for so long: four Auburn defenders ended the game with 10 or more tackles. For context: before Saturday, only 26 players in the nation were averaging 10 tackles or more per game and a quick scan only revealed three sets of teammates. The point being its rare to have multiple guys do that in a given game and Auburn had four because the defense was on the field for so long.
- Unless there's a blatant example I'm missing, this is the first time in Nick Fitzgerald's starting career that he ran (28 carries) more than he threw (17 pass attempts).
- MSU had more yards of offense in this game (418) than it did in the previous two games combined (201+202=403).
- This game had more punts (6) than it did penalties (3).
- Auburn's putrid third-down performance (3-for-14) would suggest they were behind the sticks a lot, but half of their third downs came with one to four yards left to gain; Auburn only converted one of those short third downs.
- MSU had 10 runs of 10 yards or more against Auburn; Northwestern had seven all season before its win over Michigan State on Saturday.
- Montez Sweat's three sacks were the most by a Bulldog since September of 2005 (Willie Evans against Tulane).
What about this game will be remembered in January?
Nick Fitzgerald broke Tim Tebow's SEC record for career rushing yards by a quarterback. Also any Bulldog that touched the ball ran it for a long way.
Paraphrasing Joe Moorhead
(Yeah, that says paraphrasing instead of quoting. Here's why: in the madness to meet deadline, I didn't necessarily type out every single word of what he said, but I did get the idea of what he was saying and thought some cool ones got brought up.)
- Moorhead said when looking at the Auburn defense, he and the guys he brought with him from Penn State were reminded of the Michigan defenses led by Don Brown, a personal friend of Moorhead's. Michigan's defenses have been incredible for several years, so that's as high of praise as Moorhead can offer a unit.
- Relative to Moorhead's desire for balance but running so much against Auburn: Moorhead pointed out a 2016 game at Penn State against Maryland where the Nittany Lions ran 62 times. Yes, he would prefer his offense be balanced in run-pass terms, but ultimately, this is an offense that takes what the defense allows, and when a defense allows the run, he will take it.
- "I lack a lot of things, confidence is not one of them."
Quoting the Bulldogs
- Nick Fitzgerald: "To me, what is fun is going out there and honestly dominating someone. I don't want to say that we just dominated them, but offensive line and defensive line, I feel like they just had their way with them tonight. I know it was amazing to watch."
- Fitzgerald on all the motion used in the offense: "They're a team that likes to show a lot of different looks and roll late into different things. We knew that if we spread them out, got into a no back in the backfield and did our motions that we would have to make them think, which means they couldn't be static, then try to show us different looks and then we roll late."
- Offensive lineman Deion Calhoun: "That felt good to establish the run game again, because we always knew that's what we were capable of doing."
- Cornerback Maurice Smitherman: "We were reading all the negativity that everybody was saying. We just wanted to prove that our team still had life in it and we could still be a great team. We did that tonight."
- Coach Gus Malzahn: "Yeah, I mean our defense was on the field for most of the game. There's no doubt that anytime you go 3 of 14 on third down offensively, that makes it tough. We have to do a better job on third down. They have a dynamic pass rush, there is no doubt about that. We had two third-and-shorts that we did not convert and that can't happen."
- Malzahn on Nick Fitzgerald: "He's pretty good when he gets going downhill. He got going downhill a few times."
- Quarterback Jarrett Stidham: "It was a tough game. We just can't play like that."
- Malzahn: "We've had trouble the last three weeks, I mean that is the facts of it. We have to solve it. We have to run that football better. We have to give them credit, but at the end of the day, that is what we have to do."
Top 3 rushers: Nick Fitzgerald 28-195 2 TD, Kylin Hill 23-126, JaTarvious Whitlow (AU) 8-88.
Top 3 receivers: Ryan Davis (AU) 8-91, Darius Slayton (AU) 4-58, John Shenker (AU) 1-26. (MSU had two receivers, Farrod Green and Osirus Mitchell, with 23 yards each.)
Top 3 defenders: Jeremiah Dinson (AU) 15 tackles and an interception, Mark McLaurin 10 tackles (one for a loss) and a fumble recovery, Montez Sweat 3 sacks.
(Note on top defenders: I've been doing this by tackles, but now I'm going to start taking the full statline into consideration to find the three games that likely had the biggest impact on the game based on stats. Obviously tackles are a part of that, but they aren't the biggest factor.)
A open week before going to Death Valley to see the LSU Tigers.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson