Rapid Reaction: Mississippi State shocks the world by taking down No. 4 Aggies
Mississippi State dashed any hope for Texas A&M to make the College Football Playoff with an upset victory over the No. 4 Aggies. The Bulldogs rolled at home, looking like the team fighting for a Playoff berth while a lethargic Texas A&M team was further hampered by a shoulder injury to QB Trevor Knight.
Here’s a closer look at the Bulldogs’ 35-28 victory:
What it means
Mississippi State: The victory was much-needed for a 4-5 Mississippi State team that has played much better than the record indicates. Of the five losses, the Bulldogs have come up on the short end three times by a field goal or less. They lost another game in two overtimes.
Texas A&M: With the stunning loss, Texas A&M falls out of contention for a Playoff spot as well as all but ending any chance at playing for an SEC title. It’s a shocking and stunning setback that the Aggies must overcome because a highly successful season is still certainly within their grasp.
What I liked
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs were aggressive on both sides of the football. The will to win remains in Starkville. That, combined with a good job of offsetting Texas A&M’s pressure defense with misdirection and quick passes, kept the Aggies off balance and enabled the Bulldogs to be successful.
Texas A&M: Though they didn’t play well for most of the game, the Aggies never gave up. They kept fighting and pecked away at the Bulldogs’ lead twice in the fourth quarter to make it a one-possession game.
What I didn’t like
Mississippi State: Although outplaying the Aggies throughout, they allowed the visitors to get back in the game, even with their second-string quarterback. After opening up a 28-7 lead, the Aggies scored 21 of the final 28 points in the game.
Texas A&M: The Aggies were outplayed physically, especially in the first half. They didn’t put up much of a fight throughout the first two quarters and were very fortunate to trail by only 14 points at halftime.
Who’s the man
Mississippi State: Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was magnificent in running the Bulldogs’ offense, especially through the first two quarters. He piled up 279 yards of total offense in the first half alone in staking the Bulldogs to a 28-7 lead late in the second quarter. In addition to throwing for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns, Fitzgerald rushed for another 132 yards — including a 74-yard touchdown run that sparked the Bulldogs to a big first-half lead. He punctuated the victory with a 4-yard touchdown run in the final 3:08 of the fourth quarter.
Texas A&M: When all seemed lost, Christian Kirk gave Texas A&M life with a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown just before halftime. With that, the Aggies sliced the Bulldogs’ lead to 28-14 and made a game of one that was, to that point, dominated by the Bulldogs. Kirk then hauled in a 54-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to make it a one-possession game.
Mississippi State: Fitzgerald’s long touchdown run to open the scoring set the stage for Mississippi State’s early dominance and established the Bulldogs in an alpha dog style that was carried out for the remainder of the shocking victory.
Texas A&M: When Knight scored the Aggies’ first touchdown at the end of the first quarter, he fell hard on his throwing shoulder and wasn’t the same and played only sparingly for the rest of the first half. He did not play in the second half, remaining on the sidelines out of uniform and his right arm in a sling.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs encounter another major test when they travel to Tuscaloosa for a noon eastern showdown with Alabama.
Texas A&M: The Aggies return home for a Saturday game with Ole Miss at Kyle Field.