Nick Fitzgerald threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores to lead Mississippi State over No. 16 Texas A&M 28-13 on Saturday night.
Mississippi State (5-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) won thanks to an unexpected boost from its passing game, which was among the least productive in the SEC coming into the night. One week after throwing four interceptions in a miserable loss to LSU, Fitzgerald completed 14 of 22 passes, including several big gains that swung the game in favor of the Bulldogs.
“I’m happy for every single person in our program, but I’m most happy for that kid, because he deserves it,” Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead said. “That’s the way we expect Fitzgerald to play.”
The biggest offensive moment might have been an 84-yard strike to Stephen Guidry on third-and-21 that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Fitzgerald and gave the Bulldogs a 21-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Mississippi State’s defense was able to take it from there, and Erroll Thompson’s interception in the end zone with 2:36 remaining — along with Fitzgerald’s 76-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive — sealed the victory.
Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2) had its three-game winning streak snapped. Kellen Mond completed 23 of 46 passes for 232 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Aggies had just 61 yards rushing.
Mississippi State’s surprising ability to throw the ball started on the opening drive. Fitzgerald completed 6 of 7 passes for 59 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown to Stephen Guidry for a 7-0 lead. It was the team’s first passing touchdown in more than four SEC games.
Texas A&M rallied to take a 10-7 lead into halftime but didn’t score a touchdown in the second half. The Aggies might have had more success in the first half, but several dropped passes hurt promising drives.
“We had anywhere from seven to 10 drops off the top of my head and you just can’t do that,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “It changes the whole dynamic of what you can do. It has a cumulative effect.”
Texas A&M had some good moments but was rarely able to hit on the big plays that could have turned the momentum. Mond missed on a few long throws and the receivers had several drops. Trayveon Williams, who came into the game with 798 yards rushing, had just 26 yards on the ground.
It was a huge game for Mississippi State’s offense, which looked completely overmatched in last week’s loss to LSU. If the Bulldogs are able to pass like this the rest of the season, there could be several more wins remaining on the schedule. The defense — as it has been all season — was excellent.
Texas A&M travels to face Auburn next Saturday.
Mississippi State hosts Louisiana Tech next Saturday.
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