State wins shootout against Samford

Published 9:18 pm Saturday, October 29, 2016

STARKVILLE (AP) — Nick Fitzgerald tied a Mississippi State record with seven total touchdowns and led the Bulldogs to a 56-41 win over Samford on Saturday.

The win snapped Mississippi State’s three-game losing streak and the Bulldogs (3-5) had 669 yards of total offense.

Fitzgerald was 20-of-35 for 417 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 117 yards and two more touchdowns. Fitzgerald became just the third quarterback in SEC history to pass for at least 400 yards and rush for at least 100 yards in a game. He joined the company of former Ole Miss standout Archie Manning and former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

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“It is great to get a win and I know our guys were fired up downstairs to get a win,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “I don’t know another team in the country more appreciative of getting a win, especially with the way we have lost three games. So I am really happy for our guys. We got a lot of things to improve on but a lot of guys made great plays out there today.”

Donald Gray caught three of Fitzgerald’s touchdown passes and totaled a career-high 207 yards receiving. Fred Ross had nine catches for 107 yards and one touchdown for Mississippi State.

Devlin Hodges set career highs with 42 completions, 69 attempts and 468 yards passing for Samford (6-2). He had four touchdown passes and three interceptions.

“I am disappointed with certain things on defense,” added Mullen. “We had way too many missed tackles on the back end. We knew they had a high-tempo offense but I am really happy to see some younger guys starting to make big plays on defense. That really picks up the spirit of the team.”

Mississippi State led 28-20 at halftime and managed to put the game away late in the third quarter. Senior linebacker DeAndre Ward returned his first career interception 35 yards for a touchdown, giving Mississippi State a 49-26 advantage with 2:48 remaining in the third quarter.

Samford ran 104 total plays and also rushed for 159 yards. K’rondis Larry led the ground game with nine carries for 101 yards, while Hodges added 45 yards.

Karel Hamilton had 14 catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Kelvin McKnight added 13 catches for 115 yards and one touchdown for Samford.

“We ran out of gas a couple of times,” said Samford coach Chris Hatcher. “We overcame a big third-quarter deficit and gave ourselves a chance to win in the end. So if there are moral victories we had one today.”