Mississippi’s dominant defense and field-goal prowess outlasted Mississippi State’s prolific offense.
The Bulldogs’ last-second misses in a 20-17 loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 2 were right around the time that Mississippi State’s offense took a dramatic step backward.
It couldn’t have ended much worse.
Mississippi State fell to 24th-ranked Mississippi 31-21 on Thursday night in the Egg Bowl, a disappointment for a team that entered the game averaging 41.2 points and 675 yards per game.
All the Bulldogs (3-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) could muster was 180 yards and two turnovers — not exactly the kind of day they had envisioned for a team that came into the game ranked second in the SEC in total offense and passing offense.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing,” Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead said. “They gave us some battles. We just came up a little short. That’s the game.”
Not even Mississippi quarterback Nick Fitzgerald could carry the load. The Bulldogs’ dual-threat quarterback threw for only 106 yards on 14-of-28 passing with a touchdown and two interceptions. He ran for 109 yards on 15 carries.
“We needed him to be a lion and he wasn’t a lion tonight,” Moorhead said. “I don’t know that we were as good as we need to be up front on offense.”
Deshaun Womack caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from Fitzgerald on the opening drive and run it in from the 6 in the second quarter to give Mississippi State a 17-7 lead. A bad snap on Mississippi’s next possession left it a third-and-17 on its opening drive of the second half, but Fitzgerald found Womack again in the back of the end zone.
The Bulldogs had a chance to put it away in the third quarter when Jake Fromm hit Seth Small for a 33-yard score and Deshaun Nixon ran it in from the 4 to make it 31-14, but a missed 40-yard field goal attempt on fourth down with 8:18 left in the game proved to be costly.
“I have total trust in our kicker,” Moorhead said. “The ball was really low and a lot of momentum. We wanted to go for it on fourth down. There’s no way I was ever going to take my kicker out there and second guess myself.”
Mississippi State’s normally reliable kicker, Andy Cherry, missed a pair of kickoffs, an opportunity that gave Mississippi the ball at the Bulldog 18. Fitzgerald hit D.K. Metcalf for two-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing play to narrow the gap to 31-21.
The Bulldogs’ offense sputtered after that, and Mississippi State didn’t cross midfield in the second half. The defense finished with 10 tackles for losses, including four sacks, and forced three turnovers, two of which were fumbles.
“I’m proud of our defense,” said Gary Wunderlich, who made all three of his field goal attempts for Mississippi. “They executed extremely well.”
Mississippi: It was a tough loss for the Bulldogs, who figured to be one of the league’s top teams but struggled to show it against Mississippi, which entered the game on a two-game losing streak.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs might not get any breaks. Mississippi opened the season with a 17-13 loss to Boise State and they lost again last week to Auburn . Mississippi State has to get better if it hopes to make a big jump in the SEC West in conference play.
TRUTH OF THE MATTER
The first half featured a few strange plays — especially on two Mississippi State offensive plays.
The Bulldogs got the ball near midfield in the first quarter but Womack couldn’t get out of bounds before a defender smacked him around the head, sending him to the ground on the point of a forward pass. He was able to secure the ball on the ground for a first down and the Bulldogs still converted on a fourth-and-1 to keep it going.
Then, on the final play of the first half, Fitzgerald took a swing pass and ran the ball back about 10 yards to the Mississippi State 39. But when he got into the backfield he dove for the line of scrimmage, fumbled and then was ruled out of bounds on the Bulldogs’ 45-yard line.
TACKLE FOR LOSSS
Mississippi finished with 10 tackles