In a game of wild swings of momentum, it was Iowa that held on in the end, beating Mississippi State 27-22 in the latest edition of the Outback Bowl.
Stop if you’ve heard this one before but Bob Shoop’s defense showed up to play in this game, setting the tone early in the contest from Tampa. The game began with Jeffery Simmons blowing up the first play from scrimmage in the game, holding Iowa to a four-yard loss on the Hawkeye’s first play. Two plays later, Simmons sacked Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley to force a three and out.
That was a sign of things to come for Iowa, which finished one of 11 on third down attempts in the Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes finished with minus 15 yards of rushing in the game.
Unfortunately, as has been a theme throughout the season against top competition, the Mississippi State passing game didn’t do its part in the game to help the team get a victory on the field. Nick Fitzgerald completed only 14 of his 32 passes for 152 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. His second turnover of the game was particularly brutal, as MSU was in position to score a go-ahead touchdown, down only two at that point, when a pass into the end zone was caught by an Iowa defender.
Fitzgerald’s performance wasn’t all bad, however, as the SEC’s all-time leading rusher from the quarterback position reached 100 yards in a contest for the 22nd time of his collegiate career. Fitz finished with 103 yards and one touchdown on the ground against Iowa.
In one of the more bizarre plays from the game, Mississippi State defender Aaron Brule “picked off” a rugby style punt early in the game.
That's a very effective counter to the rugby punt. pic.twitter.com/Ai8LP18Ekm
— patrick meyer (@myrdsm) January 1, 2019
After being completely shut down early in the game, Iowa had zero yards of total offense entering the second quarter, the Hawkeyes caught fire for the first momentum swing of the game. Iowa scored two touchdowns in a span of 53 seconds in the second quarter, which gave the Hawkeyes an early 17-6 lead that carried over to halftime.
Mississippi State came out strong in the second half, getting a spark from linebacker Willie Gay, who intercepted Stanley and nearly returned it for a touchdown. Kylin Hill quickly converted the turnover into a touchdown for the Bulldogs. In a scary moment in the game, Hill exited the game in the second half and collapsed on the sideline, according to the ESPN broadcast.
ESPN did not update his status following that report.
Following that exchange, this wild play happened on the ensuing kickoff:
— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) January 1, 2019
On the next play, Fitzgerald went beast mode for a touchdown that gave Mississippi State a 19-17 lead in the game.
He ran through the entire defense!
NICK. FITZGERALD. 💪💪 pic.twitter.com/xn9BSPD3pT
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 1, 2019
However, after this, the scoring was nearly all Iowa in the game. Mississippi State did convert a 51-yard pass that set the team up on the goal line, but the offense could not convert the possession into a touchdown. The following possession resulted in Fitzgerald’s end zone interception, which appeared to really take the sails out of the team.
Mississippi State did have one final possession to win the game but failed to muster a touchdown drive that could have won the game.
Joe Moorhead’s first Mississippi State team finishes 8-5 on the season and enters the offseason with plenty question marks on why the offense never really got going under the offensive-minded coach.