Rapid Reaction: Amid backlash, Nick Fitzgerald returns to form, fuels Mississippi State's win over Texas A&M
Welcome back, Nick Fitzgerald.
The Mississippi State quarterback led the Bulldogs to a 28-13 victory over No. 16 Texas A&M on Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium. Mississippi State (5-3, 2-3) won for the third consecutive time over a Texas A&M team that slipped to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in SEC play.
Against a Texas A&M defense tough against the run, allowing an average of just 81.6 rushing yards per game, Mississippi State went to the passing game and Fitzgerald delivered. He accounted for all 4 TDs — 2 rushing and 2 passing.
His 84-yard pass completion, longest of his career, to Stephen Guidry on 3rd-and-21, ended the third quarter and set himself up for a 1-yard touchdown run and the Bulldogs led 21-13 with 13:53 left in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs came up with a goal-line stand in the final minutes to preserve the victory. Texas A&M had 1st-and-goal from the Bulldogs’ 10-yard line. But a Cory Thomas sack and an interception in the end zone by Erroll Thompson on fourth down. Two plays later, Fitzgerald raced 76 yards for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
Mississippi State scored on its opening possessions of each half, both on Fitzgerald touchdown passes. The Bulldogs took a 14-10 lead early in the third quarter, driving 75 yards in seven plays with Fitzgerald hitting Osirus Mitchell with a 38-yard touchdown pass.
The Bulldogs drove 79 yards in 12 plays on their opening possession to take a 7-0 lead. In doing so, they converted on all four third-down opportunities, against an Aggies defense that game into the game second in the nation, holding the opposition to just 22.8 percent conversions on third down.
Included in that was a 25-yard touchdown pass from Fitzgerald to Guidry on a 3rd-and-12 play. It was his first touchdown pass in the past five games.
It was a drive that consumed 6:38 off the clock against a Texas A&M team that entered the game leading the SEC and all of Power 5 football in time of possession, averaging 36:39 per game.
Bulldogs backup QB Keytaon Thompson made an appearance early in the second quarter, but after three plays that included a sack that was negated by a penalty, Fitzgerald returned.
The Aggies answered with a 34-yard field by K Seth Small, who missed from 49 late in the first quarter, but was good from 41 yards late in the third quarter. Then aided by penalties, they took a 10-7 lead in the final seconds of the second quarter. A face mask penalty and two plays later a pass interference call gave the Aggies a chance just before halftime. Two plays later, Aggies QB Kellen Mond threw a screen pass to Quartney Davis, who raced 34 yards for a touchdown.
It was only the second touchdown given up by the Bulldogs’ defense in the opponents’ past 35 drives. The Mississippi State defense came into the game allowing just 32 first-half points all season, second-fewest in the nation by average (4.57 points per game).