Mississippi State’s offense is Nick Fitzgerald, the 6-foot-5 jeep of a quarterback that’s the best short yardage back in the SEC. But it doesn’t work if Fitzgerald can’t throw the ball, and we saw how bad things can get when Mississippi State can’t throw the ball in last week’s loss to No. 4 LSU. Despite an excellent defensive performance, the Bulldogs lost 19-3 in large part because Fitzgerald was 8-of-24 for 59 yards with four interceptions.
But Fitzgerald bounced back in a big way on Saturday night, and as a result the Bulldogs bounced back, upending No. 16 Texas A&M 28-13 in Starkville.
The good vibes started for Fitzgerald and Mississippi State early. The Bulldogs moved 79 yards in 12 plays over six and a half minutes on their first possession, ending with Fitzgerald hooking up with Stephen Guidry for a 25-yard touchdown on a 3rd-and-12 to put the home team on the board.
Texas A&M put together two 40-plus yard drives over its next few chances but saw them both come up empty, one on a missed Seth Small field goal from 49 yards and another on a punt off a drive that began on their own goal line.
The Aggies’ third such drive finally resulted in points, a 34-yard Small field goal.
Mississippi State (5-3, 2-3 SEC) figured to take a 7-3 lead to the locker room but, after a curious decision by Joe Moorhead to throw deep on a 4th-and-3 inside the final minute of the first half, Texas A&M took over on its own 36 with 44 seconds and two timeouts. Kellen Mond‘s first three passes of the drive were incomplete, but the Aggies still moved 30 yards thanks to a facemask and a pass interference call on the Bulldogs. Finally, Mond found Quartney Davis on a screen pass, who raced 34 yards to the end zone to put the Aggies on top at the break.
Mississippi State opened the second half the same way it opened the first — a long drive punctuated by a beautiful Fitzgerald throw. The drive went 75 yards, the final 38 on a lob to Osirus Mitchell.
A 33-yard Roshauud Paul punt return gave Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2 SEC) the ball at the Mississippi State 28 late in the third quarter, but the Aggies could not find pay dirt, forcing a 41-yard Small field goal.
The Bulldogs immediately responded, again moving 75 yards. This drive ended in a more conventional way, a 1-yard Fitzgerald rush.
Trailing 21-13 with 7:44 left in the game, Texas A&M took over at its own 38. The Aggies eventually moved into a 1st-and-goal at the 10, but an 8-yard sack by Cory Thomas took the series off schedule. A&M eventually moved back to the 11 on fourth-and-goal, and with 2:36 left Jimbo Fisher had no choice but to go for it. Mond’s end zone heave was intercepted by Erroll Thompson.
Fitzgerald then put the capper on the evening, breaking free for a 76-yard touchdown run, which tied a school record with his 42nd career score.
The senior finished the game hitting 14-of-22 for 241 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 16 times for 88 yards and two scores.