Starkville, MS (WLTX) - Mississippi State's new quarterback piled up 195 yards on the ground and another 178 in the air to lead the Bulldogs over South Carolina 27-14 Saturday night in Starkville.
Nick Fitzgerald, who's in his first season replacing Dak Prescott, who holds most of the Bulldogs' quarterback records, did his best impression of his predecessor's a balance of running and passing, and by the same turn, made amends for a poor performance in last week's season opening loss.
The 195 rushing yards are a Bulldog team record for a quarterback.
For the Gamecocks, they may once again be evaluating who'll be playing quarterback for them, as backup Brandon McIllwain was able to engineer two second half touchdown drives after the offense sputtered in the first half.
The Bulldogs started the scoring in the first quarter, when Fitzgerald finished off a 7 play, 55 yards drive with a 6-yard pass to Fred Ross to put the Bulldogs up 7-0.
On the team's next possession, Fitzgerald would kept it himself, running 74-yards down to the 5-yard line. USC's defense, however, stepped up, forcing a turnover on downs when MSU's fourth down pass was swatted away.
USC's first promising drive came later in the same quarter, punctuated by a leaping 21-yard fingertip grab by Deebo Samuel. But the Gamecocks couldn't drive the ball much further, and came away with empty when kicker Elliott Fry's 55-yard field goal attempt fell just short of endzone posts.
In the second quarter, Fitzgerald would flip it to Nick Ross on the left side of the field, who ran around for a yard or two before lobbing it 17 yards in the endzone to a wide open Donald Gray with 11:00 to go in the quarter.
A few minutes later, Fitzgerald would toss a touchdown pass of his own, when tight end Jordan Thomas won a jump ball contest in the endzone with USC's D.J. Smith to give the Bulldogs at 21-0 lead.
The Bulldogs would add a 27-yard field goal before the half.
During the intermission, the game was delayed when lightning was detected a few miles from the stadium. Fans were asked to move out of the stands and into the concourses while the storm passed.
After the long break, USC's offense seem a bit more energized when McIllwain, who relieved starter Perry Orth in the first half, led a 12 play, 80 yard drive early in the third that ended with an 18-yard touchdown pass to AJ Turner.
At that point, it was 24-7.
The Bulldogs, though, continued to use a combination of Fitzgerald's legs and their stable of backs to eat away the remaining clock. Another Bulldog field goal would add insurance to their final score.
The Gamecocks would get on the board one last time, when McIllwain found KC Crosby for a 4-yard scoring lay with 3:49 left in the game.
McIlwain was 11-22 for 126 yards and two scores, while Orth finished 9-17 for 83 yards.
The Gamecocks (1-1, 1-1 SEC) will host their home opener next Saturday against East Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium.