Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher and his Aggies are licking their wounds after being pushed around by Arkansas in his team’s first loss of the season.
“We did not play well, consistently,” Fisher said this week about the 20-10 setback to the Razorbacks. “As I always try to say, it’s doing ordinary things better, becoming more fundamentally sound in how we do things and becoming much more consistent.”
The No. 15 Aggies (3-1, 0-1 SEC) look to get back on track at home on Sunday when the Mississippi State Bulldogs come to College Station, Texas.
First thing on Fisher’s list in turning things around is getting better production from the quarterback position.
Backup quarterback Zach Calzada took over for injured starter Haynes King (broken right leg) earlier this season. The sophomore signal caller struggled against the physical Arkansas defense, finishing with just 151 passing yards and an interception in the loss.
One way for Fisher to protect Calzada is to run the football more effectively with running backs Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane. The two combined to average 5.3 yards a carry against Arkansas and are averaging 143 yards a game.
“Zach’s a new guy,” Fisher said. “We’ve got experienced receivers, backs, tight ends and all of that. We have to play better around him.”
Fisher added, “He’s got to grow.”
The Aggies also got carved up defensively by Arkansas’s big-play offense, giving up 448 total yards.
Led by head coach Mike Leach, Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1 SEC) has lost two in a row, including a 28-25 setback to LSU in the Bulldogs’ SEC opener last week.
Texas A&M and the Bulldogs have met 14 times and are tied at 7-7. The Aggies have won the last two contests, including last year’s 28-14 decision.
Mississippi State has twice knocked off a ranked Texas A&M team in recent years – beating No. 16 Texas A&M in 2018 and the No. 7 Aggies in 2016 – both games in Starkville, Miss.
Leach, meantime, is 7-4 all-time against Texas A&M, including a 7-3 mark during his tenure at Texas Tech.
“We are making progress, but we’ve got to finish drives,” Leach said. “Whether it’s offense or defense, we’ve got to finish drives.”
Quarterback Will Rogers powers the Bulldogs’ passing game, completing 75 percent of his passes for 1,454 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Makai Polk tops Mississippi State with 33 catches for 304 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
“Mississippi is playing outstanding defense right now,” Fisher said. “There giving up just 71 yards a game rushing. They’re experienced and physical up front. They’re front seven is very physical. In their secondary they have long, big athletic corners. And on offense you know Mike’s going to throw it.”
The Bulldogs could be without cornerback Emmanuel Forbes this weekend. Forbes suffered an unspecified injury in a collision with a teammate against LSU and had to be carted off the field.
If Forbes can’t play, Decamerion Richardson would likely get the nod.
“He’s still emerging,” Leach said, when asked about Richardson. “He’s doing a good job and we want to see if we can get more and more out of him. We’re always on the search for quality players to go out there and play, especially at that position.”
–Field Level Media
Max Johnson threw four touchdown passes and visiting LSU held on to defeat Mississippi State 28-25 in an SEC game Saturday afternoon at Starkville, Miss.
Johnson, who threw a career-high five touchdowns in a victory against Central Michigan last week, completed 17-of-27 passes for 280 yards with one interception as the Tigers (3-1, 1-0) won their third consecutive game after a season-opening defeat at UCLA.
Two of Johnson’s TD passes went to Kayshon Boutte, who has eight touchdown catches this season.
The LSU defense contained the Bulldogs’ passing offense until the final minutes after Mississippi State had an SEC-record 623 passing yards in a 44-34 victory against the Tigers last season.
Will Rogers completed 47-of-62 passes for 371 yards with three touchdowns and one interception for Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1).
On the second play from scrimmage after halftime, Johnson and Boutte connected on a 64-yard touchdown pass that gave LSU a 14-3 lead.
Johnson then threw a 58-yard touchdown to Trey Palmer to increase the lead to 21-3 with 3:35 remaining in the third quarter.
Rogers threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Makai Polk with 26 seconds remaining in the quarter to cut the Tigers’ lead to 21-10.
Johnson threw a 41-yard pass to Kole Taylor to increase the lead to 28-10 with 11:32 remaining in the game.
Rogers threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Austin Williams and a 16-yarder to Jo’quavious Marks with a two-point conversion to cut the LSU advantage to 28-25 with 1:53 remaining. The Bulldogs’ ensuing onside kick failed.
LSU forced a fumble on the first possession of the game and Damone Clark returned the ball 35 yards to the MSU 35. The Tigers converted a fourth-and-1 on their way to Johnson’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Boutte for a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Bulldogs used 14 plays to drive 80 yards to Nolan McCord’s 23-yard field goal that cut the lead to 7-3 and it stayed that way at the end of the first half.
–Field Level Media
Calvin Austin III scored three second-half touchdowns Saturday and Memphis withstood a 419-yard passing outburst from Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers to log a 31-29 non-conference win in Memphis.
The Tigers couldn’t secure the win until Rogers’ attempt to run in a game-tying 2-point conversion with 1:32 left in the game came up short. Memphis recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock to improve to 3-0.
Rogers, who completed 50 of 67 passes, brought the Bulldogs (2-1) within two points on a 36-yard touchdown pass to Makai Polk. It was Rogers’ third scoring strike of the day.
But it wasn’t enough to outdo Austin, the Tigers’ most dangerous weapon on offense. He almost single-handedly erased a 17-7 halftime deficit with his scores in a 15 1/2-minute span of the second half.
Austin caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Seth Henigan with 6:20 left in the third quarter, bringing Memphis within three points. Then he put the Tigers ahead for good with a 25-yard scoring grab at the 7:48 mark of the fourth quarter.
Just over two minutes later, Austin produced a 94-yard punt return for the Tigers’ second non-offensive touchdown of the game. They initiated scoring in the first quarter on a 49-yard fumble return by Sanchez Blake.
Austin finished with nine catches for 105 yards. He was outdone by Polk, who finished with a game-high 136 yards receiving on 11 grabs.
Trailing 7-0, Mississippi State controlled most of the remaining first half, rattling off 17 straight points. Second-quarter touchdowns on a 3-yard run by Dillon Johnson and Rogers’ 6-yard pass to Jaden Walley gave the Bulldogs a 10-point cushion.
Henigan was 16 of 28 for 159 yards for Memphis, which was outgained 468-246.
–Field Level Media
Will Rogers threw for two touchdowns and Mississippi State also received a boost on the game’s first play in a 24-10 victory against visiting North Carolina State on Saturday night in Starkville, Miss.
Lideatrick Griffin returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
After that, Mississippi State (2-0) relied on its passing attack, with Rogers going 33-for-49 for 294 yards through the air. The Bulldogs were credited with only 22 rushing yards.
The second touchdown pass from Rogers went for 4 yards to Jaden Walley on the Bulldogs’ first possession of the second half, stretching the lead to 21-3. Rogers began to scramble from the pocket before unleashing the pass.
NC State quarterback Devin Leary was 30-for-49 for 303 yards and an interception. The Wolfpack’s touchdown came on Leary’s 4-yard pass to Thayer Thomas with 1:06 left in the game.
Mississippi State was up 24-3 on Nolan McCord’s 32-yard field goal with 12:30 to play.
NC State committed each of the game’s three turnovers.
The Wolfpack (1-1) never fully recovered from Griffin’s dash.
NC State botched a couple of early scoring chances, with running back Ricky Person Jr.’s pass intercepted by Jalen Green in the end zone and Christopher Dunn missing on a 48-yard field goal attempt.
But aided by a fourth-down offsides call on Mississippi State that prolonged a drive, the Wolfpack got on the board in the second quarter on Dunn’s 45-yard field goal.
The Bulldogs converted a fourth-down play and went on to score with 1:09 remaining in the first half on Rogers’ 21-pass to Malik Heath on the side of the end zone, completing a 13-play, 83-yard drive. That possession accounted for more than half of Mississippi State’s total yards in the first half.
That was also a costly sequence for NC State because standout linebacker Payton Wilson was lost for the rest of the game with an injury.
NC State hasn’t won a road game against a Southeastern Conference team since 1991 at South Carolina.
Will Rogers threw one touchdown pass and ran for a score as Mississippi State held off No. 24 Tulsa 28-26 in a rainy Armed Forces Bowl on Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas.
Emmanuel Forbes had a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown and Lideatrick Griffin, who caught Rogers’ touchdown pass, contributed 138 kickoff return yards to help the Bulldogs (4-7) overcome a sluggish offensive performance that produced just 270 yards.
Zach Smith passed for 347 yards and a touchdown, but threw two crucial interceptions for the Golden Hurricane (6-3).
The contest was marred by an ugly postgame brawl in which punches and kicks were plentiful.
The Tulsa defense held down the Mississippi State offense even without linebacker Zaven Collins, the Nagurski Award winner as the top defensive player in the country who opted out to focus on the NFL Draft.
The Bulldogs led 7-6 at halftime and Rogers scrambled 13 yards for a touchdown that gave Mississippi State a 14-6 lead.
Deneric Prince answered on the next possession with a 13-yard touchdown run for Tulsa.
The Golden Hurricane was poised to take their first lead of the game, but Forbes made his pick-six against Smith for a 21-13 Mississippi State lead at the end of the third quarter.
A botched punt by Mississippi State gave Tulsa a first down at the Bulldogs’ 32-yard line and nine plays later Corey Taylor II ran 5 yards for a touchdown. A two-point pass went incomplete, leaving MSU with a 21-19 lead with 12:30 remaining.
Rogers threw a 13-yard touchdown to Griffin to increase the lead to 28-19 with 8:01 left.
Smith drove the Golden Hurricane to the Bulldogs’ 6, but was intercepted by Tyrus Wheat before directing Tulsa to his 15-yard touchdown pass to Keylon Stokes with 1:23 left. Stokes had nine catches for 117 yards.
Griffin returned the opening kickoff 53 yards to the Tulsa 39-yard line.
Three plays later Jo’Quavious Marks ran 28 yards for a 7-0 Bulldogs lead that lasted through the end of the first quarter.
Zack Long made field goals of 27 and 33 yards to pull the Golden Hurricane within 7-6 at halftime.
–Field Level Media
Will Rogers passed for 295 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Mississippi State Bulldogs past the visiting Missouri Tigers 51-32 on Saturday.
Jaden Walley caught five passes for 129 yards and a touchdown for the Bulldogs (3-7, 3-3 SEC), who snapped a three-game losing streak.
Larry Rountree III rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers (5-5, 5-5), who lost their second straight game. Connor Bazelak passed for 225 yards and two touchdowns, but the Bulldogs intercepted him three times.
Mississippi State lost middle linebacker Erroll Thompson to a targeting call on the game’s second play from scrimmage. That penalty propelled the Tigers to a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped by Rountree’s 18-yard scoring run.
The Bulldogs tied the game 7-7 after Tigers punt returner Cade Musser muffed a fair catch attempt at the Missouri 11-yard line and long snapper Paul Blackwell recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
Mississippi State used a 62-yard scoring drive to take a 14-7 lead. Rogers completed a 32-yard pass to Walley and later found him on a 7-yard TD pass.
Brandon Ruiz’s 40-yard field goal pushed the Bulldogs lead to 17-7. The Tigers got those points back with 33-yard field goal from Harrison Mevis.
The Bulldogs pushed their lead to 24-10 with Rogers completing all five pass attempts on the scoring drive, including a 37-yarder to Walley and a 7-yard touchdown pass to Osirus Mitchell.
Ruiz’s 43-yard field goal put the Mississippi State up 27-10 at the half.
Mississippi State kept coming in the second half, opening with another 75-yard scoring drive to expand its lead to 34-10. This time Jo’Quavious Marks finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
After Rogers fumbled the ball on the on the Mississippi State 14-yard line, Bazelak converted the turnover with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Keke Chism. Bazelak’s 2-point conversion pass to Chism cut the Mississippi State lead to 34-18.
Mississippi State expanded its lead to 41-18 as Rogers hit Brad Cumbest with a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Ruiz made it 44-18 with a 35-yard field goal. The Tigers countered with a 75-yard drive capped by Rountree’s 6-yard TD run to reduce their deficit to 44-25.
Emmanuel Forbes’ interception and 29-yard touchdown return pushed the Bulldogs up 51-25.
Shawn Robinson, who started the season as Missouri’s quarterback, picked off a pass as a fill-in safety. That led to Bazelak’s 24-yard TD pass to Niko Hea.
–Field Level Media
Bo Nix ran for a touchdown and passed for another and Anders Carlson kicked three field goals as Auburn defeated Mississippi State 24-10 in an SEC game Saturday night in Starkville, Miss.
Nix’s touchdowns came in the fourth quarter after neither team produced a touchdown through the first three quarters. He completed 15 of 32 for just 125 yards, but Tank Bigsby rushed 26 times for 192 yards.
The Tigers (6-4) had two interceptions of freshman Will Rogers, who completed 30 of 51 passes for 221 yards and one touchdown. Mississippi State fell to 2-7 heading into its season finale against Missouri next week.
Auburn led 6-3 at halftime, but Mississippi State threatened to score on the first possession of the third quarter. The Bulldogs drove 53 yards, but Brandon Ruiz missed a 40-yard field goal.
On the Bulldogs’ next possession, Smoke Monday intercepted Rogers and returned the ball 31 yards to the Mississippi State 38. That set up Carlson’s 45-yard field goal, giving the Tigers a 9-3 lead with 4:28 left in the third quarter.
When Auburn finally put together the game’s first touchdown drive, it did so by driving 95 yards in 10 plays.
Nix’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Seth Williams gave the Tigers a 16-3 lead with 10:03 remaining.
Lideatrick Griffin returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards to the Auburn 29. That led to Rogers’ 8-yard touchdown pass to Austin Williams to get the Bulldogs within 16-10 with 8:24 left.
However, Nix ran three yards for a touchdown and threw to Ze’Vian Capers for a two-point conversion and a 24-10 lead with 6:03 remaining.
Carlson kicked a 27-yard field goal that gave Auburn a 3-0 lead about midway through the first quarter.
Roger McCreary intercepted Rogers, giving the Tigers the ball at the Bulldogs’ 46, but on fourth and four, Nix threw an incompletion.
Mississippi State drove to Brandon Ruiz’s 41-yard field goal, tying the score with 5:27 left before halftime.
Later in the half, Nix drove Auburn 37 yards in seven plays and Carlson kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Tigers a 6-3 halftime lead.
–Field Level Media
The season looked promising for both Auburn and Mississippi State when Southeastern Conference play got underway in late September.
The Tigers were ranked No. 11 in the preseason and climbed to No. 7 after beating then-No. 23 Kentucky in their opener.
The Bulldogs began the season unranked but soared to No. 16 after beating defending national champion LSU 44-34 on the road in their season opener.
Auburn and Mississippi State can take their frustrations out on each other Saturday night when they square off in Starkville, Miss.
The Tigers (5-4, 5-4 SEC) have lost consecutive games to No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Texas A&M, with a goal of trying to salvage a winning record in their regular-season finale.
“Learning how to go through adversity is just part of the process,” Auburn quarterback Bo Nix said. “It’s not like we have a bad team by any means. All you can do is just move forward, make sure you finish the season how you’d like and not just let the whole season go to waste.”
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn tried to put the season in perspective after Tigers allowed 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter of a 31-20 loss to Texas A&M in the home finale last Saturday.
He suggested a four-loss season in a 10-game SEC schedule wouldn’t look as bad as a four-loss season in a normal schedule featuring eight SEC games and four nonconference games.
Fans on social media were critical of what they perceived as a lowering of standards at Auburn.
Malzahn tried to clarify what he meant about a season in which three of the Tigers’ losses have come against teams that were ranked in the top five at the time of the defeats.
“I want to make sure it’s very clear: Our expectations are to win championships here at Auburn,” Malzahn said.
The Bulldogs are just 2-6 overall and in the SEC, and even that opening victory doesn’t seem as impressive as it once did because LSU has stumbled all season. With just two games remaining, Mississippi State can’t get to .500 in coach Mike Leach’s first season.
Mississippi State has been short-handed in its past two games because of COVID-19 issues and it took a pair of 31-24 defeats, to then-No. 13 Georgia and in-state rival Mississippi.
“We’ve got kind of a thin squad,” Leach said. “You march into (Georgia) with 43 scholarship guys, and here we go. But we got better as a team. I’m disappointed we didn’t win, and it was there. We could have won that. I think we should have won it. I was really proud of the effort of our guys, probably as proud as I’ve been of any team I’ve ever coached.”
Stanford transfer K.J. Costello passed for an SEC-record 623 yards against LSU, but he has since been replaced by freshman Will Rogers.
“I think (Rogers) got progressively better,” Leach said. “I think he’s got to keep improving. I do think he’s ahead of schedule. I think he’s better than I would have expected. I think he’s played quite courageous, quite well for a guy his age.”
–Field Level Media
Both Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin and Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach will finally get to experience what so many have told them about the entire offseason.
Kiffin and Leach both were hired to lead their respective programs over the offseason, and the first-year coaches will now step into their first Egg Bowl, the annual rivalry tussle between Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
The only difference this year is that instead of on Thanksgiving, it will take place Saturday afternoon at Ole Miss.
Since being hired pre-pandemic, both coaches have heard from their supporters about the significance of the Egg Bowl.
“I’ve known about it from watching it,” said Kiffin, who was hired as head coach at Ole Miss last December. “It used to be on Thanksgiving a lot. With my brother here for a number of years, I knew it was always competitive and a big deal around here.”
A month after Kiffin was hired at Ole Miss, Leach was tabbed as the head coach for Mississippi State, and he also has come to understand the intensity of the rivalry from afar.
“Even as I was a kid, I know it was always an incredibly intense game,” Leach said. “I know it’s very meaningful to people and I know that it’s in conversation all year ’round. There’s not a day I don’t hear somebody mention the Egg Bowl. I know it’s a very meaningful game and I also know that there have been plenty of them that have been exciting to watch long before I was even in the state of Mississippi. It’s exciting to be a part of it.”
After a 44-34 win in the season opener at LSU, Mississippi State lost five of its next six games and enters this weekend 2-5 overall and in SEC play.
The Bulldogs are coming off a close loss at Georgia (31-24), and Leach feels that defeat was another sign his younger team is starting to mature a bit heading into the stretch run of the season.
“We just have to keep working hard,” Leach said. “I don’t think we’ve hit our potential yet. I think we are proof that we are young enough to where we are going to change for the positive. That’s where the biggest strides come. The younger they are, the more they are developing. We’re right there.”
On the other side, Ole Miss enters 3-4 and on a two-game winning streak following a 54-21 win over Vanderbilt and a 59-42 win over South Carolina.
The Rebels were slated to play at Texas A&M last week, but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 issues.
Kiffin obviously didn’t want to see the stoppage last week with the rhythm his team had established in the two games prior, but he hopes the bye week will be an advantage.
“It is what it is,” Kiffin said. “Hopefully we used it to get better at some things.”
Ole Miss did receive some good news in that Otis Reese, a former safety at Georgia who transferred to Ole Miss in January, was cleared to play by the NCAA and will make his debut with the Rebels against Mississippi State.
–Field Level Media