Ole Miss Rebels roll after Mississippi State Bulldogs lose Nick Fitzgerald

By Robbie Faulk, The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 23, 2017 at 11:57 PM
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STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Ole Miss took advantage of five Mississippi State turnovers and a game-ending injury to Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to post a 31-28 victory Thursday in the 114th matchup between the two teams.

No. 14 Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) outgained the Rebels 501-335, but the turnovers proved to be the difference.

Big plays paid off for Ole Miss with Jordan Ta'amu throwing for 247 yards, with 140 of those yards coming off of his two touchdown passes. A.J. Brown burned the Bulldogs for 167 yards and a touchdown on six catches, and Jordan Wilkins rushed for 110 yards and two scores on 14 carries.

The Rebels (6-6, 3-5 SEC) scored in the first 39 seconds when Ta'amu found Brown for a 58-yard pass inside Mississippi State territory and Wilkins ran for a 22-yard touchdown on the next play.

Later in the first quarter, the Bulldogs were dealt a blow that they would never recover from when Fitzgerald sustained a gruesome ankle injury that ended his night. He gave way to true freshman Keytaon Thompson, who helped Mississippi State close the deficit to 10-6 by halftime.

Turnovers would plague the Bulldogs all game. They threw two interceptions and fumbled three times, one by Thompson proving critical.

After the quarterback coughed it up inside the Ole Miss 25, Ta'amu struck with an 80-yard touchdown pass for the 17-6 lead midway through the third quarter. The Rebels added on late in the third quarter when Ta'amu hit D.K. Metcalf for the 63-yard score, and Ole Miss took a 24-6 lead into the fourth.

The Bulldogs finally got in the end zone after a Rebels turnover. Mark McLaurin intercepted a pass that eventually led to 15-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to Deddrick Thomas to close the deficit to 24-13 with 9:16 remaining.

Ole Miss answered with a 46-yard burst up the middle from Wilkins for a 31-13 advantage.

Mississippi State gave itself a chance late with Kylin Hill's 30-yard run and a two-point conversion, cutting the lead to 31-21. A defensive stop gave the Bulldogs another shot, and Thompson led the team down the field and scored from 1 yard out to close it to 31-28.

The ensuing onside kick was failed, and Ole Miss held on for the win.

Mississippi State rushed for 294 yards in the game, led by Thompson, who had 26 carries and 121 yards with a score. Hill rushed for 82 yards, and Aeris Williams gained 75 yards.

NOTES: Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown broke the Ole Miss single-season school record for receiving yards with 1,252 yards on the year. ... Mississippi State RB Aeris Williams eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season. .. Ole Miss RB Jordan Wilkins also went over the 1,000-yard mark with his sixth 100-yard game. ... The road team has now won the last three Egg Bowls. ... The Rebels lead the series 64-44-6.

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