Fitzgerald continues strong MSU tradition of rushing QBs

Trio from Mississippi State rank among SEC’s Top 5 all-time rushing quarterbacks

When it comes to using a running quarterback as an offensive weapon, no team in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has done it better over the years than the Mississippi State Bulldogs.  

With 103 yards rushing and one touchdown in a 27-22 loss to Iowa in the Outback Bowl, Nick Fitzgerald capped off a career that saw him rewrite the MSU and SEC record books for rushing totals by a QB. And many of the records he rewrote belonged to Dak Prescott and John Bond, Bulldog brethren who join Fitzgerald among the Top 5 all-time rushing QBs in SEC history.

Fitzgerald stands atop the list with 3,607 rushing yards followed by Tim Tebow, Arkansas’s Matt Jones, Prescott and Bond, a Bulldog standout in the early 1980s. A deeper dive into Fitzgerald’s totals paints an even clearer picture of just what a staggering force he was as a runner during his Starkville stay.

With his Outback Bowl output, Fitzgerald lengthened his SEC record for games with 100-plus yards rushing to 21, and MSU was 17-4 in those games.

He scored 46 rushing TDs, an MSU record and tied for fourth all-time in the SEC with former LSU great Kevin Faulk.

After gaining 127 yards and scoring three TDs on 23 carries as a freshman in 2015, Fitzgerald exploded on the national and SEC scene with 1,375 yards and 16 TDs in 2016. The 1,375 yards was the 21st best total in the country that year, was only 13 yards shy of leading the entire SEC, and included a school-record 258-yard outburst against rival Ole Miss.

Photo by Todd Van Emst | Courtesy Auburn Athletics

Fitzgerald added 984 yards and 14 rushing TDs in 2017 and finished with 1,121 yards and 13 rushing TDs this season. He is one of just seven QBs in NCAA history to post double-digit rushing TD totals in three consecutive seasons.

His rushing totals in each of the last three seasons ranked him second, 10th and fifth among all SEC rushers.

He averaged 6 yard per carry and lost just four fumbles in 601 career carries.

Maybe MSU coach Joe Moorhead put it best after seeing the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Fitzgerald surpass Tebow with a 39-yard run in the fourth quarter of a 23-9 win over Auburn on October 6. “He’s a tough son of a gun,” Moorhead said. “You see him on a Sunday after a game, and he’s been through the battles. It’s a testament to his leadership and a testament to his willingness to do what it takes for the team to be successful.”

Here’s a closer look at the rest of the Top 5 and few others who warranted honorable mention:

Photo courtesy Florida Athletics
  1. Tim Tebow

Florida Gators, 2006-09

2,947 career rushing yards

Tebow was a bulldozer in a QB’s body, and Urban Meyer didn’t mind using him to shove the ball down the throats of opposing defenses.

That was never more obvious than in the 2007 season when Tebow put up 895 yards rushing and an incredible 23 rushing touchdowns. In four seasons under center in Gainesville, he amassed those 2,947 yards rushing on 692 carries (4.3 yards per carry) and an SEC-record 57 rushing TDs (8 better than second-place Herschel Walker and 14 than ninth-place Bo Jackson.)

Tebow began the string of QBs rushing for three straight double-digit TD totals with those 23 in 2007 and added 12 in 2008 and 14 in 2009. He rushed for 469 yards as a freshman in 2006, 673 as a junior in 2008 and 910 as a senior in 2014.

 

  1. Matt Jones

Arkansas Razorbacks, 2001-04

2,535 career rushing yards

Perhaps the most surprising name on this list, the 6-foot-6 Jones also moonlighted as a forward on the Razorbacks basketball team. Although overshadowed by much bigger names here, he posted a 6.6 yards per carry average, the best on the list.

Jones eclipsed the 2,500-yard mark on just 362 carries and scored 24 rushing TDs. He was also perhaps the most consistent player among this Top 5, posting 592 yards and 5 TDs in 2001, 614 yards and 5 TDs in 2002, 707 yards and 8 TDs in 2003, and 622 yards and 6 TDs in 2004.

 

Photo by Kelly Price | Courtesy MSU Athletics
  1. Dak Prescott

Mississippi State Bulldogs, 2012-15

2,531 career rushing yards

The second Bulldog on the list is also the most well-known thanks to his NFL success with the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones’ bunch didn’t draft him to power the ground attack like he did at MSU, but they’re certainly happy he runs as well as he does if the situation requires.

Prescott came up just 5 yards short of bypassing Jones on 536 career carries (a 4.7 yard average) and posted 41 rushing TDs. After going for 118 yards and 4 TDs as a freshman in 2012, Prescott then added 829 yards and 10 TDs, 986 yards and 14 TDs, and 588 yards and 10 TDs to join Fitzgerald and Tebow on the list of QBs who have rushed for 10-plus TDs in three straight seasons.

 

John Bond (Far Right) | Photo courtesy Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum
  1. John Bond

Mississippi State Bulldogs, 1980-83

2,280 career rushing yards

This is another on this list who is not a household name except maybe to long-time Alabama fans who remember his performance in a 6-3 MSU win in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1980 that broke a 28-game Crimson Tide winning streak. Described as a “brash redshirt freshman” Bond certainly backed up any talk that day with 94 yards rushing on 20 carries as the Bulldogs handed “Bear” Bryant’s boys a heartbreaker.

Bond benefited from having Emory Bellard—the inventor of the Wishbone offense—as his coach and climbed the ladder to 2,280 yards on 572 carries (a 4.0 yard average). He scored 24 rushing TDs.

 

Honorable Mentions

Johnny Manziel

Texas A&M Aggies, 2012-13

2,169 career rushing yards

The only reason “Show Me The Money” isn’t tops on this list is because he only played two seasons in College Station. But oh what two seasons they were.

Manziel burst on the college stage in 2012, and all he did was become the first true freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy. He took home that hardware in great part because of the 1,410 yards and 21 rushing TDs he put up, often in highlight reel fashion. His total led all SEC rushers that year and ranked 20th in the entire NCAA.

He added 759 yards and 9 TDs as a sophomore to finish his career with 2,169 yards on 345 carries (a 6.3 yard average) and 30 TDs. He finished only 111 yards shy of Bond’s total in two less seasons played.

Photo by Todd Van Emst | Courtesy Auburn Athletics

Cam Newton

Florida Gators 2007-08, Auburn Tigers, 2010

1,586 career rushing yards

Not to discount the 21 attempts for 113 yards and 4 TDs Newton rushed for in an abbreviated stay in Gainesville in 2007-08, but it’s the 1,473 yards and 20 TDs in his one season at Auburn that couldn’t go unmentioned.

In leading the Tigers to their second national championship, Newton put up video-game like numbers—30 passing TDs, 20 rushing TDs, 1 receiving TD—to lead the nation in that category. His yardage total, which came on 264 carries for a 5.6 yard average, led all SEC rushers and ranked him 12th in the NCAA that year. H&A

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