Photo courtesy of Kelly Donoho/MSU Athletics
Mississippi State’s season ended in Tampa with a 27-22 loss to Iowa in the Outback Bowl after their comeback effort in the second half fell short.
Trailing by 5, Nick Fitzgerald had the #18 Bulldogs on the move with time running out, but a 4th down pass intended for TE Farrod Green fell incomplete and the Hawkeyes would hold on after nearly letting their lead slip away several times.
Turnovers at inopportune times would cost MSU in this one with the Hawkeyes taking the ball away three times. After Iowa took a 10-3 lead on a 75-yard TD pass in the 2nd quarter, a Fitzgerald fumble deep in Bulldog territory would give the Hawkeyes another chance to strike. Two plays later, they converted and seized control of the game at 17-6.
While the defense did their part, the Bulldog offense found their stride and opened the second half with two touchdown drives to grab a 19-17 lead, but after an INT thrown by Fitzgerald – again in MSU territory – the Hawkeyes would find the end zone. Capping a 6-play drive, Nate Stanley found Nick Easley for an 8-yard TD, his 3rd of the day.
Trailing once again, it appeared that the Bulldogs were headed in for a go-ahead score midway through the final quarter. A 34-yard completion from Fitzgerald to Osirus Mitchell put MSU at the 31-yard line, and they moved down to the 20 a few plays later. On 1st down, Fitzgerald would throw his costliest INT of the game, but this one wasn’t on him as his receiver, Mitchell, bobbled the ball and it ended up in the hands of Iowa’s S Jake Gervase. Iowa would add a FG before MSU’s final drive that fell short.
This loss showcased the Bulldogs’ up and down season with the offense shooting themselves in the foot while the defense was dominant throughout the afternoon. Outside of a big play and being put up against several short fields, the Bulldogs showed why they were one of the nation’s best defenses. Iowa finished the day with a total of -15 rushing yards, and the defense had 7 tackles for loss and 3 sacks along with an INT to open the second half.
Penalties were also a problem for MSU with a total of 8 that cost them 90 yards, while Iowa had 0 penalties.
The Bulldogs finish the season with an 8-5 record under first-year head coach Joe Moorhead.
Fitzgerald ends his Bulldog career as the school and SEC leader in several statistical categories including rushing yards by a QB (3,607 yards) and he finishes 4th all-time with 46 rushing TDs.
- Scoring Summary:
- MSU QB N. Fitzgerald: 14/32 152 yards 1 TD 2 INT, 20 car. 103 yards 1 TD
- MSU DL J. Simmons: 2.5 TFL
- Iowa QB N. Stanley: 21/31 214 yards 3 TDs 1 INT
- Iowa WR N. Easly: 8 rec. 104 yards 2 TDs.