Mississippi State was better than Texas A&M in every way
Texas A&M had an historically highly rated recruiting class. It generally was considered a contender for the SEC West title when the season began. In some quarters it was seen as a dark-horse national-championship contender.
But on Saturday afternoon at Davis Wade Stadium, Mississippi State was a better team than the 17th-ranked Aggies.
And it wasn’t close.
The Bulldogs were better on offense. They were better on defense. They were better on special teams.
They were better coached.
They did what they generally have done against A&M when the Aggies have been ranked in recent years – they beat them. It was the 4th times in the past 5 meetings that State won when A&M came in with top-25 credentials.
This time it was thorough as the unranked Bulldogs whipped the the visitors from Texas, 42-24.
It was more thorough than the 26-22 win against the No. 15 Aggies last season in College Station.
It was more thorough than the 28-13 win in 2018 at Davis Wade and more thorough than the 35-28 win against the No. 7 Aggies in 35-28 in 2016 at Davis Wade.
It wasn’t surprising that State won; coach Mike Leach’s team was a 4-point favorite.
It wasn’t surprising that State had the better quarterback; Will Rogers has been better than Max Johnson since they both started playing 2 years ago.
But A&M does have a good defense. At least it appeared to until Saturday. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team had won 3 of 4 games mostly by allowing just 44 total points.
Rogers and Co. nearly matched that total. And State had much the better defense. And, lo and behold, even the State special teams were, well, special.
The Bulldogs passing game performed as it usually does. Rogers completed 31 of 45 for 329 yards. He threw 3 touchdown passes, connecting with a different receiver each time. This day it was Rara Thomas who stood out the most – 5 catches for 134 yards and a score.
And State had little trouble against the A&M defense on the ground. Running backs collected 144 yards and averaged 6 yards a carry.
The Aggies opened the season by shutting out Sam Houston State. Their defense kept Miami out of the end zone. Even in an upset loss against Appalachian State coordinator DJ Durkin’s unit allowed only 17 points. Coming into Saturday’s game the worst performance by the Aggies defense came when they surrendered 21 points to Arkansas in the SEC opener.
But they couldn’t slow down the Air Raid attack.
On the other side the Bulldogs had no trouble slowing down the Aggies. They took the ball away 4 times.
They shut out the Aggies in the first half; every time the Aggies got within threatening distance, the State defense rose up.
When the Aggies reached the Bulldogs 12 in the second quarter, Collin Duncan forced a fumble and Decamerion Richardson recovered.
A&M had an opportunity to score right before halftime, but J.P. Purvis, Randy Charlton and Nathaniel Watson all sacked Johnson on the same possession and Watson caused a fumble that Tyrus Wheat recovered.
State finished with 4 sacks and A&M had none.
The Aggies drove to the Bulldogs’ 6-yard line early in the 3rd quarter, but the defense stiffened and forced a field goal.
Caleb Ducking fumbled on the ensuing possession, but that was about the only mistake the offense made.
But it didn’t matter. The Aggies lost 1 yard in 3 plays, State blocked a field goal attempt and Richardson returned it 50 yards for a touchdown. The Bulldogs led 21-3 and remained in charge the rest of the way.
An exclamation point came when Haynes King replaced Johnson and threw an interception that Emmanuel Forbes returned 33 yards for a touchdown.
The final score actually belies how well the State defense played. Most of A&M’s scoring came after the outcome was well in hand.
It was a complete performance by State.