TAMPA, Fla. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – Making its school-record ninth straight bowl appearance, Mississippi State arrived in Tampa on Thursday afternoon for the first of several days of preparation and activities leading up to the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.
After overcoming a travel delay, the Bulldogs landed at Tampa International Airport around 1:30 p.m. ET, and arrived shortly after at Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay.
Head coach Joe Moorhead and the team spent the remainder of the afternoon in meetings and walkthrough practices. Moorhead and select players, including senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, later met with the media to close out the day.
Members of the team, coaching staff and family members capped the evening at Amalie Arena, where the Tampa Bay Lightning took on the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Bulldogs will practice Friday morning at Jesuit High School and spend the afternoon visiting children at Tampa General Hospital. Both the Bulldogs and Hawkeyes will enjoy an evening of fun and games at Splitsville at Sparkman Wharf along the downtown Tampa waterfront.
Special Edition of “Dawg Talk”
A special Outback Bowl preview edition of "Dawg Talk" will air from 7-8 p.m. ET (6-7 p.m. CT) on Sunday, Dec. 30 from 3 Daughters Brewing on 222 22nd Street in St. Petersburg, two days prior to the Bulldogs' New Year's Day matchup against Iowa.
MSU (8-4) is set to face Iowa (8-4) at noon ET/11 a.m. CT on Jan. 1 at Raymond James Stadium. The Bulldogs are seeking back-to-back nine-win seasons for just the second time in program history. For complete gameday information, visit HailState.com/Gameday.
The show will be hosted by the "Voice of the Bulldogs" Neil Price and feature analyst Matt Wyatt along with special guests. Fans are invited to attend.
Affiliates of the MSU Sports Network, including 100.9 FM in Starkville, will carry the hour-long broadcast from 6-7 p.m. CT. It can also be heard for free on HailState.com/plus and on the TuneIn App.
Quotes From Joe Moorhead and Nick Fitzgerald Media Sessions
Head Coach Joe Moorhead
On what he hopes the team accomplishes at practice this week …
“Preparing ourselves to take the field with confidence. When you talk about the three phases of victory, preparation is the most important. Then, go out on the field and play with great effort, and execute our scheme better than the opposition. But, this will be kind of the second time through the game plan, essentially a time and a half prior to leaving campus. I would like to see good retention, good effort and most importantly precision and execution.”
On Iowa …
“Offensively, I played against them the last two years at Penn State as offensive coordinator. So, I feel like we have a pretty good idea of what they are going to do on that side of the ball, plus watching all of the games this year. Defensively, they are very stout and run the ball very well. They have a pro-style quarterback, a [John] Mackey Award winner at tight end, and a big, strong, physical offensive line. They are giving up, I think, right around 17 points per game defensively. They are scoring right around 30 [points] on offense.”
On Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz and his sixth appearance at the Outback Bowl …
“I certainly have the utmost respect for Coach Ferentz and the Iowa program. He’s a fellow Western Pennsylvania native. He is the model of consistency, and I think that is something with their philosophy, blue-collar work ethic, fundamentals and technique. He has done it at a very high level for a very long time. The fact that he has been here six times in a New Year’s Day bowl, I think, speaks volumes for his program.”
On his last time playing a football game in the state of Florida …
“I think I have to go back to the last game against South Florida in my second-to-last year at UConn. We beat them on a field goal almost as time expired to clinch the Big East and go to the Fiesta Bowl. There may have been one after that, but that is the one that sticks out in my mind the most.”
On retention of the game plan …
“It has been pretty good. Sitting in meetings, watching the guys at walkthrough, like I said, we have been through it about a time and a half. I think it has been pretty good for just the first walkthrough.”
On the biggest different in this Iowa team than the one he faced last year …
“I think personnel is probably the biggest difference. Iowa does a great job emphasizing what its team does well, and I think that shows up in all three phases. So, it is more personnel than anything.”
On how to send the message of focus to the team during the bowl week …
“The ability to compartmentalize and make sure when it is time for football – mostly in the morning – that we are focusing on football. Then, when it is time for fun – we have the hockey game tonight and some other events throughout the course of the week – that they are concentrated on having fun but able to turn the football switch on and off and also turn the have-fun switch on and off. And, make sure that the too much fun is not taking away from the too much football.”
Senior Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald
On Iowa …
“I have watched a lot of film. They definitely have a very sound defense. They are not going to beat themselves. They are always going to be in position. You have to make tight throws and good catches if you want to move the ball on them. It is tough to run on them. I like our matchup, I like our game plan and I think it is going to work out.”
On what to tell some of the younger teammates about focusing during a bowl week …
“The easiest way is to tell them that when we are doing football, you are 100 percent locked in to football. That is the only thing that matters. The second that last whistle blows, go have all the fun you want, be back before curfew, and make sure you are looking over your notes and practice film from that day. But, when it is football time it is football time. When it is time to have fun, go enjoy what we have earned.”
On Iowa’s experience playing in the Outback Bowl and the game day atmosphere …
“It is a big bowl. Teams are going to travel well. They are going to bring fans, especially them because they have been here so many times. I also know our Hail State Family is going to pack that thing with Maroon and those cowbells are going to be rocking. I think it is going to be a great atmosphere.”
On bowl prep …
“With 15 extra practices comes 15 more opportunities to get better, especially the earlier ones when you just found out who you will be playing and you are not doing a lot of game planning. You are doing a lot of individual work and routes on air. For me, it was working on passing, pocket presence, feet in the pocket, keeping eyes up and delivering an accurate ball.”
On what sticks out about Iowa’s defense …
“How sound they are. Obviously, they are a top-10 defense in the country for a reason. They don’t make mistakes. They have a big front seven. It will be a tougher job to run the ball on them, which is something I think we do well. I think it is going to be a good matchup. They are very sound, they play together and they do not make mistakes.”
On what sophomore quarterback Keytaon Thompson can do in the future …
“He is an extremely great player and an awesome guy as well. He works hard. He is going to be a great leader. Everybody already respects him. You have seen what he can do when he has come in to play and a year ago in last year’s bowl game when he got a victory against a Heisman Trophy winner. We have all of the confidence in the world that when it is his time to play, he is going to lead us and do great things. He will probably break all of my records, too.”
Tickets for the New Year's Day matchup remain on sale at HailState.com/bowltickets. Fans who purchase tickets through HailState.com/bowltickets can receive a free Egg Bowl lapel pin, dinner with Coach Moorhead and an athletic facility tour.
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