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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Bulldogs sweep away road woes, crush Texas A&M

Olivia Zeringue – The Reflector

MSU’s defense held the A&M offense to 285 total yards and 14 points. Montez Sweat led the defense with six tackles and two sacks.

For the first time this season, Mississippi State University (6-2, 3-2 SEC) survived an SEC road test, dominating Texas A&M University (5-3, 3-2 SEC) on their home turf.

MSU dominated the Aggies on both offense and defense to the tune of a 35-14 beatdown. The win makes MSU bowl eligible, sending MSU to a bowl game for the eighth year in a row.

Head coach Dan Mullen said he was happy about becoming bowl eligible but also acknowledged the team still has a lot of games between now and bowl season.

“Six wins means to our guys that you are rewarded with one more game,” Mullen said. “Hopefully we’ll get some more, but we at least got ourselves an opportunity for one more at the end of the season.”

Spreading the wealth strategy works for MSU on offense

At Georgia and Auburn, MSU’s other road games, the defense was able to key in on quarterback Nick Fitzgerald because of the lack of offensive players stepping up for MSU. That was not the case at A&M, as multiple players, in both the receiving and rushing games, stood out.

Fitzgerald still led the team, going 12-21 through the air for 141 yards and two touchdowns, and then rushing 18 times for 114 yards for one touchdown.

However, the running backs, as a committee, took pressure off of Fitzgerald all night long. Aeris Williams ran the ball 22 times for 75 yards, but it was backup running back Nick Gibson who stole the show.

Gibson ran the ball four times for 43 yards and also caught a pass for 12 yards. His biggest play was a 14-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that killed A&M’s post-touchdown momentum. It was his Gibson’s career touchdown.

Receiving the ball, Jesse Jackson caught four passes for 39 yards and Farrod Green caught three for 51 yards. Fitzgerald said recent experience allowed the young team to make such large contributions. 

“We are well-seasoned,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t think you can classify us as a young team anymore. I think everybody has gotten enough reps to know what they have to do.”

Pass rush creates opportunities for the secondary

MSU’s defense was shaky against both Auburn and Georgia but not during this game. The secondary kept everything in front of them and only gave up one deep pass when the game was already decided.

The MSU pass rush constantly put pressure on A&M’s true freshman QB Kellen Mond. The pass rush was led by hybrid linebacker/defensive end Montez Sweat, who had six tackles and two sacks.

The defense created pressure all night long and got inside his head, forcing Kellen into quick check downs and bad decisions. MSU safety Mark McLaurin credited the defensive line for the secondary’s success.

“They were giving us a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and we were just doing what we were supposed to do on the back end,” McLaurin said.

The secondary took advantage of A&M’s mistakes, picking off three passes, one of which became a 70-yard touchdown return by Jamal Peters.  

Injury update heading into UMass

Cory Thomas and Keith Mixon both played in this game. Left tackle Martinas Rankin traveled and was dressed out but did not play. Gabe Myles did not travel with the team.

Mullen said Myles hurt his foot, but whether he plays is decided week-to-week. Dez Harris left a recent game with a stinger, but Mullen said he should be good to go next week.

Mullen said Donald Gray hurt his groin, and said he did not know the extent of the player’s injury. However, he also said he did not think it was major.

The win makes MSU bowl eligible and is the closest margin of victory MSU has had this season, at 21 points. MSU has yet to play a close game, a trend that may continue as MSU welcomes the 2-6 University of Massachusetts Minutemen to Davis Wade Stadium.

Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. next Saturday, and the SEC Network will broadcast the game.

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Bulldogs sweep away road woes, crush Texas A&M