Texas A&M's inclusion in the initial College Football Playoff rankings — as the fourth projected playoff team — stirred up serious debate, especially with an undefeated Washington team knocking on the door. After Saturday's results, the Aggies played themselves out of the conversation, as Mississippi State was able to hold on for a 35-28 victory.
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns, but was particularly impressive on the ground for the Bulldogs, finishing with 182 rushing yards and adding two more scores. Running back Aeris Williams added 140 yards on the ground as part of a rushing attack that piled up 365 yards.
It was a stunning win for Mississippi State (4-5, 2-3 Southeastern Conference), which was coming off an uninspiring 56-41 win over lower-level Samford. The Bulldogs had lost their previous three games against FBS competition.
Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2) not only lost the game, but possibly its starting quarterback. Trevor Knight missed the entire second half with a shoulder injury, showing up on the sidelines with a sling on his right arm. Backup Jake Hubenak thew for 222 yards in relief. His touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds with 1:33 left gave the Aggies hope with the score 35-28.
After using its remaining timeouts and getting a defensive stop, A&M took over on its 20 with 27 seconds left. Mark McLaurin intercepted Hubenak on the second play of the drive to secure the win for the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State's biggest drive was a grinding 14-play, 73-yard push in the fourth quarter that ended with Fitzgerald running for a 4-yard touchdown for a 35-21 lead. The Bulldogs ran 10 straight running plays at one point in the drive.
Mississippi State took a 28-7 lead late in the second quarter after Fitzgerald's 7-yard touchdown pass to Ross, but Texas A&M responded with Christian Kirk's 93-yard punt return for a touchdown to pull within 28-14 by halftime.
Contributing:The Associated Press