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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M defense looks to redeem itself in Starkville

Junior+defensive+back+Charles+Oliver+has+one+interception+during+the+2018+season.
Photo by Photo by Jesse Everett

Junior defensive back Charles Oliver has one interception during the 2018 season.

This Saturday, the Aggies will look to put an end to their woes at Davis Wade Stadium, and it will start with the defense. 
Texas A&M has not won in Starkville since 2012. The last time the Aggies played there, they lost to the Bulldogs 35-28. Senior defensive end Landis Durham said he remembers the stadium being a difficult place to play.
“That was just crazy,” Durham said. “I remember that was a morning game. We just kind of got caught in Starkville with those cowbells and whatnot. We have to make sure that doesn’t duplicate itself. They’ve got a pretty special place. They’ve got a great atmosphere there. It makes it pretty tough for visiting teams to play.”
The Aggies’ defense, who are ranked second nationally against the run, will have a lot to worry about on the ground this weekend, as senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and sophomore running back Kylin Hill have combined for over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
Despite being the quarterback, Fitzgerald is the team’s leading rusher and ranks fifth in the SEC with 644 rushing yards and seven touchdowns so far this season.
“They run the ball pretty effectively with the quarterback,” Durham said. “It’s been probably the most effective I’ve seen in recent years. That will be a big part of our defense this week just to stop the quarterback run. … This guy has got some power to him, too. He’s a pretty big cat. He might be one of a kind.”
In fact, Fitzgerald is the conference’s all-time leading rushing quarterback, with 3,130 yards. In the team’s past two meetings, the senior has totaled 287 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, both times leading the Bulldogs to a win.
“He can run for days, man,” A&M senior defensive end Kingsley Keke said on Monday. “He’s killed us with his legs. We have to account for that. A guy like that at the quarterback position that can run like that is tough.”
Despite boasting a threatening rushing attack, Mississippi State has had trouble throwing the ball this season. As a team, the Bulldogs rank No. 13 in the SEC in passing offense and Fitzgerald has thrown for only 768 yards and four touchdowns. He has completed only 46.9 percent of his passes and has thrown seven interceptions, four of which came in last week’s game at LSU.
“That guy’s a great player. He’ll rebound,” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He’s played in big-time games. He’s had consistency over a long period of time. … Everybody has times when you don’t play as well as you want to.”
The Bulldogs’ sophomore Osirus Mitchell is the only wide receiver with over 200 yards and multiple touchdowns in 2018, totaling 251 yards and two touchdowns. Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead said he knows his team needs to improve their aerial attack.
“Right now we are one-dimensional,” Moorhead said. “We are running the ball very, very well. We need to find a way to create more explosive plays — in addition to what we are doing in the run game — in the pass game.”
A&M’s pass defense has struggled at times this season, ranking 80th in the country. The Aggies have allowed an average of 241 yard per game and 13 touchdowns this season, while only forcing three interceptions. This could be a game where either team manages to right their wrongs heading into the second half of the season 
The Aggies will be down a man in the secondary, as safety Donovan Wilson will miss the first half of Saturday’s matchup. He was ejected for targeting in the closing minutes of the Aggies’ game at South Carolina. It was the senior’s third ejection for targeting in seven games this season. 
“[Keldrick Carper] will go in there,” Fisher said. “He will just replace [Wilson] … and we’ll move our nickel guys around. … The good thing about having these guys is that they’ve all played a lot of football.”

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