Mississippi State seemed to start the game off well on defense, but big plays by Iowa’s offense and defense have stunned the Bulldogs in the first half of the Outback Bowl in Tampa. Iowa turned a 6-0 deficit after one quarter of play into a 17-6 advantage at halftime with big plays on both sides of the football.
Mississippi State cornerback Maurice Smitherman was ejected from the game early in the second quarter for targeting on Iowa’s Brandon Smith. Smith kept on his feet after the contact was made and scrambled to pick up two yards on the play by sweeping to the other side of the field, but the 15-yard penalty moved the Hawkeyes to the Mississippi State 33-yard line. The drive ended with Iowa scoring their first points of the game by way of a Miguel Recinos field goal from 43 yards.
Iowa took the lead with just one play on their next offensive series when Nate Stanley found a wide open Nick Easley down the field, and Easley took off and managed to reach the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown before a defender could close in on him with the angle.
Things got even worse for Mississippi State on the ensuing possession. Nick Fitzgerald was strip-sacked by Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, giving the Hawkeyes the football at the Mississippi State 13-yard line. Stanley then connected with Ihmir Smith-Marsette two plays later to give Iowa a 17-6 lead.
Mississippi State looked like they had a chance to cut into the lead just before halftime, but a holding penalty at the line of scrimmage wiped out a big pass play to inside the 10-yard line.
No. 18 Mississippi State (2-0) proved to be much too powerful in two key areas against Kansas State (1-1). The Bulldogs went on the road and used a strong defensive effort and a powerful performance from running back Kylin Hill to leave town with a 31-10 victory against the Wildcats. Hill rushed for 211 yards and two touchdowns and added one touchdown reception in the win, while the defense held the home team to 197 yards of total offense.
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald made his season debut for the Bulldogs after sitting out of the season opener due to a suspension. Fitzgerald did not light up the field with his arm (11-of-27 for 154 yards) but he did throw two touchdown passes and he made up for it with his 159 rushing yards. But the story of the game was Hill, the sophomore running back who made a name for himself against Kansas State Saturday afternoon.
At one point in the fourth quarter, Hill had more offensive production than Kansas State, demonstrating just how much of an advantage Mississippi State had with Hill and the defense, which have typically been Kansas State’s bread and butter.
The last time Kansas State gave up over 300 yards of rushing offense in a regular season game was on Nov. 8, 2014 when TCU rushed for 334 yards. UCLA is the last team to go for at least 300 rushing yards, doing so later in that season in the bowl game with 331 rushing yards. The 372 rushing yards by Mississippi State was the most allowed by Kansas State since 2010 when Nebraska rushed for 451 yards.
Mississippi State returns home next week to host Louisiana-Lafayette in one last non-conference game before jumping into the SEC schedule in Week 4. Kansas State will play a third straight home game next week with a game against UTSA. The Wildcats open Big 12 play the following week at West Virginia.