September 18, 2018 9:40:02 AM
STARKVILLE -- Few can appreciate what Keith Mixon did to get back on the field more than Nick Fitzgerald.
While Fitzgerald was recovering from an ankle injury he suffered against Ole Miss last season in the Battle for the Golden Egg, he had Mixon as a partner. Mixon, a wide receiver from Birmingham, Alabama, was attempting to come back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss five games of his sophomore season in 2017.
Fitzgerald admitted the rehab process features "boring, monotonous stuff" that isn't easy for the most motivated players. It likely was even harder for Mixon, who had doubts about the future of his football career.
On Saturday, Mixon proved he has all of his tools back by leading MSU with four catches for 80 yards and a touchdown in a 56-10 victory against Louisiana-Lafayette.
MSU coach Joe Moorhead expects more of the same from Mixon at 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2) when No. 14 MSU takes on Kentucky (3-0) in its Southeastern Conference opener in Lexington, Kentucky.
"You go back and look at some of the film from last year and Keith made some dynamic and explosive carries," Moorhead said. "He's his own worst critic, and that's a good thing because he wants to be the best player he can be.
"He's got a very bright future here, immediate and the long term."
Mixon caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Fitzgerald in the third quarter to help propel the Bulldogs to the rout. He is tied with Stephen Guidry for the team lead with six catches. He is averaging 16.8 yards per catch.
"I'm just blessed," Mixon said Saturday after the game. "I had an injury I wasn't really supposed to come back from, but I worked my tail off trying to get back from it and God blessed me with an opportunity. I'll never take another snap for granted again."
Moorhead said cornerback Jamal Peters will miss the game against Kentucky after he suffered what he called a "lower body injury" against Louisiana-Lafayette. Peters was seen on the sideline with a wrap over his knee.
"It'll be week to week. We'll see where he goes this week," Moorhead said.
Moorhead said other players have bumps and bruises and will be day to day. He initially didn't name any players, but he later confirmed running back Kylin Hill is one of those players.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald made headlines last week by likening run-pass options (RPO) to communism in the sense that they embody public enemy No. 1. Few have pushed the envelope of the RPO or built more of a personal brand off them than Moorhead.
The criticism of the RPO -- and Fitzgerald is far from alone in this -- relates to the illegal man downfield penalty. Since RPOs are blocked as runs even when the ball is ultimately thrown, it stands to reason that offensive linemen can violate the 3-yard cushion they are granted before the ball is thrown, yet coaches have argued the rule is too difficult to enforce and isn't enforced well.
Fitzgerald said his only way to change it is to take it to the rules committee. Until then, Moorhead isn't sweating.
"We're an RPO-based offense, so I believe the rule is pretty clear based on the legality of it and the refs enforce it as they see it," Moorhead said. "A lot of people are doing it. That's just where college football is."
MSU center Elgton Jenkins was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week. According to Pro Football Focus, he has allowed one quarterback hurry on 84 drop backs.
"He's a guy with a lot of skill, a lot of intelligence, very athletic," Moorhead said.
Moorhead said the coaching staff's players of the game were Fitzgerald, safety Johnathan Abram, and safety Marcus Murphy for his special teams contributions. The scout team players of the week were wide receiver Travis O'Conner, linebacker R.J. Jennings, and running back Taury Dixon. The academic staff selected linebacker Leo Lewis, Guidry, and defensive lineman Devon Robinson as the student-athletes of the week.
Moorhead said of Guidry, "The most exciting thing about his performance last week was it was a validation of his practice habits."
Fitzgerald was 14-for-21 for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 107 yards and four touchdowns. Abram had four tackles and an interception early in the second half.
Florida kickoff time announced
Dan Mullen's return to Starkville will kick off at 5 p.m. on ESPN. The game will be part of a doubleheader on ESPN. The Ole Miss-LSU game will follow at 8:15 p.m.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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