STARKVILLE – Mississippi State fans have been anxiously awaiting to see what redshirt freshmen quarterbacks Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley have to offer.
Fitzgerald played in the season opener against Southern Mississippi, but only played one series late in the fourth quarter when the game was in hand. He didn’t attempt a pass, but rushed for 36 yards on two carries. Staley didn’t play at all in the first two games.
Both signal callers got significant playing time and scored touchdowns as the Bulldogs (2-1) beat Northwestern State (0-3) 62-13 Saturday afternoon at Davis Wade Stadium.
“I think both of them played extremely well and it was fantastic for us to get both of them in the game and give them a little confidence as we move forward because you never know when their number is going to be called,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said.
Senior Dak Prescott played the entire first half as MSU built a 34-6 lead at the intermission. He gave way to both Fitzgerald and Staley in the second half.
Fitzgerald got the first offensive series in the second half and led the Bulldogs down the field for a touchdown. He kept the ball on second-and-goal and scored a 4-yard touchdown.
Fitzgerald came to MSU in December of 2013 after graduating high school early. He went through bowl prep with the Bulldogs that winter, so he has been through two spring practices and two training camps.
“It was definitely a great time,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve been working hard and I’ve been here for what feels like forever.”
Staley came in on the next offensive possession and threw a 37-yard touchdown to Joe Morrow to increase the lead to 48-13.
Fitzgerald completed 4 of 4 passes for 90 yards and the touchdown. Staley completed 2 of 3 passes for 55 yards and his touchdown. Fitzgerald rushed for 28 yards and two touchdowns, while Staley rushed for seven yards on one carry.
Prescott was seen on the jumbotorn joking with both quarterbacks after their scoring drives.
“I was excited the moment they each got that chance,” Prescott said. “I think they did a great job of just managing the game, putting themselves in the right position, putting the ball right where it needed to be at every play that the coach gave them, and I was excited for both of them.”
As a whole, the MSU quarterbacks had only two incomplete pass. One was by Prescott and the other was Staley.
However, Mullen didn’t think the one by Staley was his fault.
“The receiver ran the wrong route, but that to me was one of the best plays I saw all day even thought it was incomplete,” Mullen said. “It showed a young guy trusting what he is doing and not waiting around to see if he would catch the ball.”
Fitzgerald hit Donald Gray for a 49-yard touchdown on his second series for his first passing score. It was also Gray’s fist touchdown, as he transferred to MSU from Copiah-Lincoln Community College in the spring.
Fitzgerald finished the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He got met at the goal line by several Demon defenders, but pushed through and fell over the plain as his helmet popped off.
“I felt great,” Fitzgerald said. “I spent all week really preparing, watching film and studying.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.