BYU, Mississippi State look to ignite sputtering offenses

Friday , October 13, 2017 - 6:01 AM

By DAVID BRANDT AP Sports Writer

Mississippi State and BYU will both try to get more production from the passing game when they meet on Saturday.

Mississippi State (3-2) is coming off a bye week following lopsided road losses to Georgia and Auburn . The Bulldogs struggled to throw in both those games, but hope that coming home to play in Starkville, Mississippi, and the extra practice time will help fix the problems.

“I think it was good for us. We got to work on our own thing,” Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald said about the bye week. “We don’t have a team that we’re playing against. We don’t have to stress to be game planning, just more of going out there to practice and work on yourself. Just kind of get your head right.”

BYU (1-5) beat Mississippi State 28-21 in double overtime last season in Provo, Utah, but the Cougars have struggled on offense during their five-game losing streak, scoring just 10 points per game.

The passing game has been a particular problem. Three BYU quarterbacks — Tanner Mangum, Beau Hoge and Koy Detmer — have thrown a combined four touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

“Our offense isn’t firing on all cylinders right now and we’re going back to square one,” BYU running back Trey Dye said. “There’s still a lot of football left this season. We’re focusing on fundamentals right now.”

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said he still believes BYU is a talented team that could cause the Bulldogs trouble.

“Take away those self-inflicted errors, and they don’t struggle,” Mullen said. “What if they show up here and they don’t have any self-inflicted errors? I’ve coached long enough to know that when you’re watching film, you can say, ‘Okay, are they struggling, or are they making some correctable mistakes?”

Some other things to watch when Mississippi State hosts BYU on Saturday:

TOUGH TIMES: This is the first time BYU has lost five consecutive games since 1970. If the Cougars lose to Mississippi State, it would be the worst start to the season for the program since 1968 when they won their first game but lost the next seven.

CLIMBING THE CHARTS: Mullen needs just one more win to tie Allyn McKeen for the second-most coaching wins in Mississippi State football history with 65. McKeen coached the Bulldogs from 1939 to 1948. Jackie Sherrill is the school’s all-time leader in victories with 75 from 1991 to 2003.

ROUGH PATCH FOR FITZ: Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald has had two subpar games in losses to Georgia and Auburn. He’s thrown for just one touchdown and four interceptions over those two games and completed just 27 of 62 passes (43.5 percent).

DIFFERENT OUTCOMES: One basis of comparison for Mississippi State and BYU is how each fared against LSU this season. BYU’s first loss in its five-game losing streak came during a 27-0 setback to LSU on Sept. 2. Two weeks later, Mississippi State crushed LSU 37-7 in Starkville.

QUOTABLE: BYU’s passing game has been a glaring weakness early in the season, but the running game hasn’t been great either. The Cougars are averaging just 253.5 yards of offense per game. Said coach Kalani Sitake: “We have to establish a physical run part in the offense. Our goal is to be balanced, but right now we aren’t doing anything well.”

AP Sports Writer Kareem Copeland contributed to this story.

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