Mississippi State (6-7) blocked a potential game-winning field goal attempt by Miami (Ohio) (6-7) in the final 10 seconds of the St. Petersburg Bowl to secure a 17-16 win. The blocked field goal let Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen off the hook for a questionable coaching decision on the Bulldogs’ final offensive possession.
Rather than kick a field goal to extend the lead to four points, and immediately after having starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald limp his way off the field, Mullen had Damian Williams roll out and look to convert on a fourth and four from the Miami 22-yard line. The pass fell incomplete, and gave Miami a chance to move down the field to set themselves up for a potential game-winning field goal. The RedHawks moved their way to the Mississippi State 17-yard line and then appeared to settle for a field goal, using their next two plays to set the ball at the desired spot for kicker Nick Dowd while sacrificing three yards in exchange for forcing Mississippi State to burn two timeouts. With Dowd set for a 37-yard attempt, the kick was blocked by Nelson Adams with five seconds to play.
Mississippi State battled back from a 16-7 deficit in the second half to take a 17-16 lead with 10 straight points. Fitzgerald ripped off a 44-yard touchdown to generate a spark in the second half and a field goal early in the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the day. Fitzgerald ended the day rushing for a game-high 132 yards and two scores and passing for 136 yards. Mississippi State was outgained by Miami, 433-335, but won the turnover battle with two forced turnovers and no turnovers by the Bulldogs offense.
The MAC falls to a woeful 0-5 in bowl games this season, while the SEC gets things started on the right foot with a 1-0 record. Also, going back to last season, teams reaching the bowl season with a 5-7 record (as Mississippi State did) are now 4-0 in bowl games.
Mississippi State opens the 2017 season at home on September 2 against Charleston Southern. The Bulldogs will also host BYU and UMass in non-conference play and go diving head first into the SEC schedule at home against LSU on September 16. Mississippi State’s 2017 road schedule includes games at Georgia, Auburn, Texas A&M and Arkansas.
Miami will open the 2017 season on the road against Marshall from Conference USA. The RedHawks will also play Cincinnati (at home) and Notre Dame next season.