Mississippi State upsets Texas A&M

Published 4:39 pm Saturday, November 5, 2016

STARKVILLE (AP) — Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald was hit a few yards shy of the end zone as one, two and then three Texas A&M defenders tried to pull him to the ground.

But the 6-foot-5, 230-pounder kept stumbling and straining, dragging the Aggies along with him as he finally fell into the end zone for a crucial touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

The sophomore quarterback — and these Bulldogs — weren’t going to be denied in a 35-28 upset win over No. 7 Texas A&M on Saturday.

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“After how hard my team worked for me all day,” Fitzgerald said. “There was no way I wasn’t going to score that for them.”

Fitzgerald’s bruising 4-yard touchdown run was one of the many highlights for Mississippi State’s running game, which finished with a season-high 365 yards. Fitzgerald ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns while Aeris Williams ran for a career-high 140 yards and a touchdown.

It was a stunning win for Mississippi State (4-5, 2-3 Southeastern Conference), which was coming off an uninspiring 56-41 win over lower-level Samford. The Bulldogs had lost their previous three games against FBS competition.

It was an equally stunning loss for Texas A&M. The Aggies were ranked No. 4 in the first College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday, but will now almost certainly tumble out of contention.

“We got whipped,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “We couldn’t stop the run and we couldn’t run it. They dictated play today.”

The Bulldogs’ biggest drive was a grinding 14-play, 73-yard push in the fourth quarter that ended with Fitzgerald’s aforementioned 4-yard touchdown for a 35-21 lead. Mississippi State ran 10 straight running plays at one point in the drive.

“The offensive line played fantastic today,” Fitzgerald said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them. Our running backs were running extremely hard, reading the blocks. We knew we could run the ball.”

Fitzgerald was 18-of-31 passing for 209 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“They’re young guys who are starting to get it,” Mullen said.

Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2) not only lost the game, but possibly its starting quarterback. Trevor Knight was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with an apparent right shoulder injury and didn’t return.
Knight wasn’t very effective when he was playing, completing just 5 of 14 passes for 43 yards. He also ran for 54 yards and a touchdown.

Mississippi State took a 28-7 lead late in the second quarter after Fitzgerald’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Fred Ross, but Texas A&M responded with Christian Kirk’s 93-yard punt return for a touchdown to pull within 28-14 by halftime.

Knight’s backup, Jake Hubenak, threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Kirk early in the fourth quarter to pull Texas A&M within 28-21. Hubenak added a 4-yard touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds with 1:33 left, but the Aggies couldn’t get enough momentum to overtake Mississippi State.

Hubenak completed 11 of 17 passes for 222 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the game’s final seconds.

“He really gave us a chance at the end of the game to tie it,” Sumlin said. “He was a bright spot today, and we’ve got confidence in Jake going forward.”