Mississippi State University went into College Station this past Saturday as underdogs, but the real Dawgs came out on top with a 26-22 victory against Texas A&M University.
Will Rogers completed 46 of 59 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns, and Makai Polk had 13 receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs played a well-rounded game from start to finish and showed improvement after struggling for most of the season. Offensively, the Bulldogs finished with 438 total yards and had no turnovers. The defense only gave up 297 yards to Texas A&M and had seven tackles for loss, including three sacks.
Although Texas A&M received the ball initially, MSU gained possession less than a minute into the game. Fred Peters intercepted a pass from Zach Calzada and returned it 12 yards to the Texas A&M 25-yard line with 14:17 left in the first quarter. The Bulldogs scored six plays later when Nolan McCord connected on a 24-yard field goal to make it a 3-0 game. The Texas A&M offense gained momentum quickly upon receiving the ball again and caught the Bulldog defense off guard. An 11-yard touchdown pass from Calzada to Jalen Wydermyer and an extra point by kicker Seth Small put the Aggies ahead 7-3 with 9:26 remaining. On the following drive, Will Rogers completed seven of eight passes, including a one-yard touchdown pass to Jaden Walley. Rogers was 10 of 11 for 77 yards in the first quarter alone. MSU took a 10-7 lead going into the second quarter.
Texas A&M started the second quarter 3rd and six at the MSU 14-yard line, but the defense held the Aggies to a 40-yard field goal. Neither team scored again until Small kicked another field goal — this one for 37 yards — with a little less than three minutes remaining. The Aggies reclaimed the lead, but the Bulldogs were ready to fight back. On the next drive, MSU marched down the field in five plays. Will Rogers completed all five passes he threw, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to Makai Polk. McCord made the extra point, and the Bulldogs went into halftime with a 17-13 lead over Texas A&M.
Each team had unsuccessful drives after the halftime break. Finally, the Bulldogs scored on a 10-play drive halfway through the third quarter. Polk caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Rogers, his second of the day, with 6:54 remaining. McCord’s extra point gave the Bulldogs an 11-point lead, the largest lead of the day for either team. Texas A&M cut into that lead towards the end of the quarter after Calzada ran for a 25-yard touchdown. The Aggies attempted a two-point conversion, but the Bulldogs played great defense and forced Calzada to throw an incomplete pass. Heading into the final quarter of action, MSU had a 24-19 lead over Texas A&M.
Through the first four games of the season, the Bulldogs were seen as a fourth quarter team. However, the fourth quarter was a sloppy ordeal for both teams. It started with a drive that consisted of 17 plays and lasted nearly eight minutes. MSU's offense got the ball down to the Texas A&M 14-yard line with a fresh set of downs. Rogers’s first pass was incomplete, and he was sacked on 2nd down for a one-yard loss. A holding penalty against the offense on the next play pushed the Bulldogs back 10 yards. Before the 3rd and 21 attempt could begin, a false start penalty made it 3rd and 26. The offense gained only three yards, and McCord came on to attempt a 44-yard field goal. MSU committed another false start penalty, which made the field goal 49 yards long. McCord was off target, and Texas A&M took over with good field position. MSU’s defense prevented Texas A&M from getting a touchdown to take the lead, but Small made a 44-yard field goal to make it a two-point game with a little more than five minutes remaining. MSU was forced to punt on the following drive, but Archer Trafford punted the ball to the Texas A&M 11-yard line. On 3rd and 11, Nathan Pickering sacked Calzada in the end zone, forcing a safety that sealed the victory. MSU ran the final two minutes off the clock and celebrated a hard-fought and much needed win over the 15th ranked Texas A&M Aggies.
Head Coach Mike Leach had some praise for his team after the game, specifically referring to fixing the "overthinking" people have been talking about.
"We did our share of it. It was an improvement, we're not there yet."
And finally, in his first press conference of the season, quarterback Will Rogers had a strong message for those who picked the bulldogs to lose this game.
"Tell those guys to shove it if they don't want to pick us."
MSU has a bye week next weekend but will return to Davis Wade Stadium to face Alabama on Oct. 16th.