The crowd erupted as the C-17 flew low over the stadium, and they would erupt many more times with the clanging of cowbells as Mississippi State University defeated the University of Arkansas on senior day 52-6.
Head coach Joe Moorhead thanked the veterans and fans as today was the last home game for MSU.
“First of all I would like to thank all our veterans, and those who have served in our armed forces,” Moorhead said. “Today was a special day for them, and certainly our fans. The crowd we have had this season at home, we are 6-1. Really appreciative for our armed forces, and our fans. For making this one of if not the best atmospheres in college football.”
MSU struck first with a field goal as they failed to capitalize on their first drive with a touchdown inside the five yard line. Jace Christmann made a 19-yard field goal. Nick Fitzgerald, a senior from Richmond Hills, Georgia, scored on a two-yard touchdown to extend the lead to ten.
Nick Gibson, junior running back from Birmingham, Alabama, stepped up for injured Kylin Hill and performed brilliantly with his first touchdown run of the day an eight-yard rush up the middle where he steamrolled over a defender.
Justin Johnson also had the game of his life on senior night, and on Military appreciation day as his brother recently graduated from Air Force basic training. His 34-yard touchdown catch on a pass from Fitzgerald made it a 24-6 MSU lead over Arkansas.
“It was surreal,” Johnson said. “It was my first touchdown catch in Davis Wade. I did not know how to react, so I just took it all in. It was a pretty special day. My brother just graduated from Air Force basic training was in attendance here today. To get in the end zone on my senior day was pretty awesome.”
A fumbled snap and a force fumble gave MSU the ball at the four yard line of Arkansas. Fitzgerald made quick time with a one play, four-yard pass to Keith Mixon for a touchdown to extend the lead over Arkansas. Moorhead said the special teams play was exactly what he demanded from his special teams unit.
“I talked about making a game changing play on special teams,” Moorhead said. “Creating positive field position for the offense, and we were able to do that as well on our punt coverage team.”
Jonathan Abram wreaked havoc on the Arkansas offense as he finished the game with 12 solo tackles, and 1.5 sacks. Moorhead said Abram filled a leadership role in the game as he stepped up and led his teammates.
“You do not have to have a C on your chest to be a captain or a leader,” Moorhead said. “Jonathan (Abram) is not a captain, he is not on our leadership council, but he is one of the best leaders on our football team by example and emotionally.”
C.J. Morgan, a sophomore from Bossier City, Louisiana, made his first interception as he started as a strong safety in the game. It was the second game Morgan started in the season and he impacted the game.
“It was a call that we had practiced all week,” Morgan said. “I just executed, I saw the ball in the air. I had watched film, I knew were it was coming because I had watched film. I saw the ball in the air but I attacked it.”
Fitzgerald connected with Osirus Mitchell, a sophomore wide receiver from Sarasota, Florida, on the ensuing drive on a 15-yard completion to make it a 38-6 lead over Arkansas. Fitzgerald continued to have a good day finding Austin Williams for a 19-yard touchdown pass and increased the MSU lead to 45-6 over Arkansas. Moorhead said it was representative of Fitzgerald's style for him to come back out and throw a touchdown pass.
“It was absolutely representative of Nick’s competitiveness and style,” Moorhead said. “He is a guy that will play 100 percent a 100 percent of the time. He has a bulldog spirit, and a bulldog toughness to him.”
Keytaon Thompson took Fitzgerald’s spot late in the fourth quarter, and found Austin Williams with a 34-yard touchdown pass to make the final score 52-6 as MSU wrapped up senior day and military appreciation day in maroon and white. Moorhead said it was great to see his team win on senior night.
“Excited by the win, and most importantly for our senior class,” Moorhead said. “Their final game at Davis Wade Stadium. I know there were a lot of emotions, and for them to cap it off with a performance like this against an SEC team I could not be more happier for those guys.”
MSU will play the University of Mississippi at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 22 in Oxford. ESPN will broadcast the game.