St. Petersburg Bowl grades: Bulldogs QB Nick Fitzgerald gets it done with his legs

Highest-graded players and top takeaways from Mississippi State's win over the Miami RedHawks.

| 5 months ago
Nick Fitzgerald

(Photo by Joseph Garnett, Jr. /Getty Images)

St. Petersburg Bowl grades: Bulldogs QB Nick Fitzgerald gets it done with his legs

Mississippi State Bulldogs 17, Miami RedHawks 16

Here are the highest-graded players and top takeaways from Mississippi State’s St. Petersburg Bowl win over the Miami RedHawks.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Quarterback grade: Nick Fitzgerald, 61.9

Fitzgerald’s legs help Bulldogs to victory

Bulldogs QB Nick Fitzgerald completed 13 of his 26 pass attempts (four drops) for 138 yards in the air. Fitzgerald completed one of his seven attempts of 20 yards or more downfield (one drop) for 24 yards on such plays. The Mississippi State QB used the zone-read scheme to accumulate 132 yards and two touchdowns on 19 rushing attempts, fueling the team’s offensive production.

Nick Fitzgerald vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

C Jamaal Clayborn, 76.1

T Justin Senior, 69.1

HB Aeris Williams, 66.8

QB Nick Fitzgerald, 61.9

RB Brandon Holloway, 60.5

Slow day for Mississippi State offense

The Bulldogs’ offense came alive with Fitzgerald’s running ability, as that facet of the attack produced a large part of Mississippi State’s offensive production. Center Jamaal Clayborn had a solid game, yielding no pressures in pass blocking, while HB Aeris Williams averaged 3.83 yards after contact and forced four missed tackles on 12 carries, while producing two runs of 15 yards or more.

Top defensive grades:

DI Nick James, 77.4

DI Cory Thomas, 73.9

S Mark McLaurin, 73.4

DI Braxton Hoyett, 73.2

DB Jamoral Graham, 73

Bulldogs’ defense controls line of scrimmage

The Bulldogs’ interior turned in a solid effort. DT Braxton Hoyett recorded two stops in run defense on 11 run snaps. Nick James had one stop on 12 snaps in run defense. The Bulldogs’ defensive front was able to control the line of scrimmage most of the game. Safety Mark McLaurin yielded no receptions on two targets into his coverage.

Miami RedHawks

Quarterback grade: Gus Ragland, 65.8

Ragland finds some success

RedHawks QB Gus Ragland completed 22 of his 30 pass attempts for 267 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Ragland completed five of his eight pass attempts of 20 yards or more downfield for 112 yards on deep targets, with his interception occurring on a deeper pass via a coverage misread on a post corner route. Ragland found success using play action, completing 10 of 13 passes for 117 yards on play-action passes.

Gus Ragland vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

WR James Gardner, 83.4

T Jordan Rigg, 78.7

TE Ryan Smith, 75.9

HB Kenny Young, 72.8

G Jordan Diamond, 72.1

Gardner impresses despite RedHawks’ loss

James Gardner impressed with a nice grab on a back-shoulder go-route, as the RedHawks WR hauled in five catches for 92 yards and a touchdown. Tackle Jordan Rigg did not surrender a pressure on 36 pass-blocking snaps. HB Kenny Young averaged 4.33 yards after contact, and forced a missed tackle on nine rushing snaps. The RedHawks found some success moving the ball, but could not produce enough in the red zone to get the win.

Top defensive grades:

S Buchi Okafor, 78.9

ED JT Jones, 78.3

LB Brad Koenig, 72.0

LB De’Andre Montgomery, 71.5

CB Bert Birdsall, 69.0

RedHawks’ defense plays solid

RedHawks safety Buchi Okafor turned in a nice performance in the secondary, yielding three receptions on five targets for 21 yards. Rush Linebacker JT Jones had a big day in run defense, with five tackles and four stops on 31 rushing snaps. The RedHawks’ defense turned in a solid effort all around, but Nick Fitzgerald’s running ability was a facet the defense struggled to answer.

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. 

| Analyst

Taylor is an offensive line and run-game specialist at Pro Football Focus. He has coached at every level of college football, with experience at Mississippi Gulf Coast, Central Missouri, and Wyoming.

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