Saturday's QB Nick Fitzgerald broke Tim Tebow's record for Career Yards from an SEC quarterback as he guided MSU to a 23-9 win over No. 21. 9 Auburn led.
Mackenzie Salmon, Mississippi Clarion Ledger
STARKVILLE – Senior runs back Aeris Williams took a short pass and landed the Mississippi State on the one-yard line. The Bulldogs were three feet away from their first touchdown in more than 120 minutes of action.
Then senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald rushed forward, trying to kick in with his legs. Denied, twice. Seeing the importance of a touchdown just before halftime, state fans knocked their cow bells and asked head coach Joe Moorhead to return to fourth four seconds from time.
He did it – without hesitation.
Fitzgerald ran the center a third time to the right and the ball barely obscured the goal line. The touchdown and the subsequent extra point brought Mississippi State home by 10 in half, and the dogs never looked back in a 23-9 win over No. 9 Auburn at Davis Wade Stadium.
"I thought it was important for us to get into the end zone and score a score and get the momentum that we know we would get the ball in the second half," said Moorhead.
The game eerily reflected last week's match against Florida for much of the first half. At the end of the second quarter, it even had the same result: 6-3. Then the Bulldogs (4-2, 1-2 SEC West) caught the kind of break that did not prevail against the Gators.
Auburns (4-2, 1-2 SEC West) Punt Returning missed a hook in Tiger territory and Senior Long Snapper ran Joel Baldwin down the field to fall for it. It was the season's first fumble recovery for the state.
The dogs used every 4:23 in half to take the two-point lead on Fitzgerald's one-yard run. Seven of the state's eight games on the ride were rushes, which was the theme of the night.
Moorhead heard all week about how MSU leads the SEC in yards per carry, but ranks in lofty attempts near the lower league. He changed that Saturday night when MSU stayed on the ground 57 times.
"I think it's a bit organic," Moorhead said. "I think that as soon as we let it roll a bit and the kids got self-confidence and we saw that we could move it on the floor, we stayed with what worked."
Mississippi State allowed the ball to continue running more than 70 percent of its games. And unlike the games in Kentucky and Florida, Fitzgerald was not the only one involved. Sophomore Kylin Hill received it for the first time since the second week and only the second time year-round two-digit transfers at 23 tries 126 yards.
Fitzgerald was still the mainstay, tho Oh, and deservedly. With his 195 yards, he broke the record of Florida Gator Tim Tebow for most yards from a quarterback in SEC history. And he did it against the best sevens he faces all season.
"Before the match, I looked at the offensive line and told them:" If you win in the trenches tonight, then we'll win, "Fitzgerald said." That's exactly what they're out there with have done and have done. They went out and dominated and opened huge holes for the running backs and me.
Auburn still had a chance to beat big, much as Mississippi State was only a few moves away from their last game against Florida
Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham missed a wide open receiver for a long touchdown in the second quarter Then, JaTarvious Whitlow ran back to a 42-yard run just before he reached the end zone, and Mississippi State recovered for a touchback.
Auburn blocked a field goal with seven and a half minutes remaining, followed by a Tigers Touchdown and it only had to take 43 yards for a game-binding score – but they could not do it – the state's defense stopped them in fourth position after Auburn had won only 13 yards on the trip.
Sophomore linebacker Erroll Thompson said defensive coordinator Bob Shoop challenged the team to hold Auburn at 14 or less. His players were successful, and then some.
"It was a tough match all 60 minutes," said Thompson. "Our coaches came with an aggressive attitude, and I think we stuck to that plan."
In a season of doubts and bad breaks for the state, the Bulldogs have silenced some critics with their rushing attack and are on the right side of the games that are changing the game. The result was a victory against a top 10 opponent at Davis Wade Stadium for the first time since November 2016 and a lot of momentum as the dogs enter their bye week.
"Hard times do not test your character, they reveal it," Moorhead said. "I think our character was revealed as a team today."
4: MSU wins in his last six games at Davis-Wade Stadium against top 10 teams.
17: 100-yard rushing games for MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is building on Anthony Dixon's (2006-09) school career record.
18½: Tackles for loss this season from the state of Jeffrey Simmons and the Montez Sweat. They had four against Auburn, including three sacks of sweat.
126: Yards rushing from MSU sophomore Yards, Kyrin Hill, his second 100-yard game.  2.999: Fitzgerald's career chicken outperformed former Florida Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow (2,947 yards from 2006-09) as the ever-leading Rushing QB in SEC history. Fitzgerald is also third on the MSU career list behind Dixon (3,994) and Jerious Norwood (3,212 of 2002-05)