Number 11 Texas A&M (3-1) knocked out the Bulldogs (1-3) 28-14 on Saturday afternoon, beating the home team with 186 yards of running and 6 sacks while keeping the home team at -2 yards of running . The state of Mississippi collected only 217 attack yards and a single offensive touchdown.
Neither team scored in the first quarter, but the pace of the match was already established. A & M’s running game, led by Isaiah Spiller (18 carries, 114 yards, 2 TDs) racked up 72 yards on the ground while Mississippi State bet twice and quarterback KJ Costello (15-22.99 yards, 1 INT) threw an easy interception in the A&M end zone to a cornerback Myles Jones waiting in the middle.
The Aggies took command of the attack point during their third drive, when they covered 66 yards out of 8 plays ̵
“The emphasis all week was on running the ball,” said senior offensive lineman Carson Green. “We wanted to show that we could run on anyone.”
The Bulldogs went 3 and out on their next possession and the Aggies knew they were about to get the ball back, but they couldn’t have gotten a better position on the pitch. Linebacker Chris Russell broke through the Mississippi State line and blocked Tucker Day’s punt, which was recovered at Bulldog 1. A game later, Spiller had his second touchdown and the Aggies were 14-0.
A&M forced another very quick possession of the state of Mississippi and it looked like they were about to catch the ball in midfield after another punt, but safety Leon O’Neal was called for a personal foul for attempting to jump over the shield of the kick, giving State the ball to own 48.
“We got three penalties in one game,” said manager Jimbo Fisher. “(O’Neal’s penalty) was just ridiculous. We could have scored there.”
Instead, he became another 3 and out, with safety Brian Williams picking up the first sack of his career to end the Mississippi State drive. The Bulldogs would get another shot in the points on their final halftime possession, arriving at the A&M 26 before a sacking by senior defensive lineman Jayden Peevy and an illegal block in the back pushed them out of the shooting range. . The Aggies entered the locker room with a 14-0 lead, getting the second-half kickoff and doubling the layoff total for the season with four, mostly three men.
“Pass rush has been the goal all week,” Peevy said. “We trained well (the 3-man front) this week. Mike Elko had a great game plan against them. “
A&M kicked off the second half and worked their way to Mississippi State 32 when a potential disaster struck. Quarterback Kellen Mond (13-23, 139 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) threw a pass that hit Ainias Smith’s shoulder straps and bounced back to the scrimmage line, where cornerback Emmanuel Forbes grabbed it and returned the bizarre 60-yard interception for a touchdown.
“We had a great trip,” Fisher said, “then we had the rebound.”
On past trips to Starkville, that kind of play was a game changer that led to a Bulldog run that points the Aggies behind the 8-ball. This time, A&M responded immediately. In just 4 plays, the Aggies went to 75 yards and returned their lead to 21-7 after the wide Chase Lane (2 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD), caught a shallow cross and passed the entire defense of the state of Mississippi for 51 yards point.
“(This was) the unit that I was really proud of,” Fisher said. “We returned immediately. We had two very good catches of Chase Lane and some very good casts from Kellen. “
A&M would put the game out of reach shortly, when linebacker Buddy Johnson and defensive end Michael Clemons teamed up to hit Costello, forcing a fumble that Peevy recovered at Mississippi State 27 and bounced 19 yards on the 8.
“I was so close (to score),” Peevy said with some regret afterward.
It wouldn’t matter; Mond hit Smith (5 holds, 20 yards, 1 TD; 10 carries, 52 yards) for a 6-yard touchdown pass two plays later, extending the lead to 28-7. It would be the curtain for Costello, who was replaced by freshman quarterback Will Rogers. Rogers was far more effective, completing 15 of the 18 passes for 120 yards and the first offensive touchdown the Bulldogs had scored in more than two football games, but A&M’s robust defense and running game stole any hope of a comeback.
The Aggies ended up running out of the final 5:06 of the match, pushing the Mississippi state defense one last time for good measure. A&M ran out of time at the Bulldogs’ 1-yard line instead of trying to increase their margin of victory.
“We wanted to show that we could run the ball so (Fisher) wouldn’t call passing games,” Green said. “We want to show that we are a great team and people need to know our name.”
Fisher said the Aggies have a lot to improve, but they got satisfaction from the end result.
“A 14-point win is a good win,” Fisher said. “The state of Mississippi has always been a difficult place to play.”