BATON ROUGE, La., – Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen hasn’t made it a secret that his team would be young this season.
Over the first two games, 20 Bulldogs have made their Division I debuts including three true freshmen. Those young players will be exposed to one of the toughest atmospheres in all of college football tonight traveling to Death Valley at night to take on LSU in their first road test.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. from Tiger Stadium on ESPN2.
“It’s a big challenge and there are a lot of young players on our team that haven’t gone on the road and played in a road environment in the SEC so it’ll be a great challenge for those guys,” Mullen said.
MSU (1-1, 1-0 SEC) has had nine first-time starters hit the field this season including sophomore quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald found success last week rushing for a new quarterback school record of 195 yards in a 27-14 win over South Carolina.
Fitzgerald only appeared in two road games last season as a back-up at Southern Miss and Missouri and is preparing for the worst in his first start away from Starkville.
“It’s going to be a loud, hostile environment,” Fitzgerald said. “But it’s no different, you still have to play to the best of your ability.”
LSU (1-1. 0-0 SEC) will be breaking in a new starting quarterback as well. After a 1-1 start to the season with Brandon Harris as their signal caller, the Tigers have made a move to start Purdue transfer Danny Etling.
Etling, a junior, does have starting experience in a dozen games for the Boilermakers in 2013-14 but went just 2-10 in those contests. He entered the game off the bench last week in his LSU debut completing 6 of 14 passes for 100 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
“They’ve got playmakers and if we let the quarterback stand in the pocket and make it a 7-on-7 drill it will be a long night for us,” Mullen said. “Whoever plays quarterback we’re going to have to get pressure on them.”
The Tigers also return running back Leonard Fournette to the fold today after missing the Jacksonville State game nursing a nagging ankle injury. Fournette was a force in last year’s 21-19 win over Mississippi State in Starkville rushing for 159 yards and three touchdowns.
“He has the ability to bounce things and create not just first downs but he can hit home runs where you think home runs aren’t available,” said MSU defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon. “For us it’s about (limiting) yards after contact and how many hats we can get to the ball. There’s one ball and 11 of us.”