ST. PETERSBURG, Fla -- Two blocked kicks, one with five seconds remaining, proved to be the difference Monday as Mississippi State edged the Miami RedHawks, 17-16, in St. Petersburg Bowl action at Tropicana Field.
After holding a lead most of the game, the RedHawks found themselves trailing for the first time when MSU converted a 37-yard field goal with 12:03 left in the fourth quarter.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Some pictures below. More coming Thursday or Friday!!!)
Miami twice drove . . .
Sophomore Nick Fitzgerald, who was backup to Dak Prescott (now with the Dallas Cowboys) last year, rallied the Bulldogs to 10 second-half points. Seven of them came via his 44-yard sprint down the right sideline. Overall, the game MVP gained 132 yards and both MSU touchdowns on 18 carries. He also completed 13 of 26 passes for 136 yards.
Miami quarterback Gus Ragland eclipsed that 268-yard total with 314 total yards – most through the air. He completed 22 of 30 tosses for 263 yards with two TDs and his first interception of 2016. The 71.0 percent completion percentage was the highest in St. Peterburg Bowl history. He also was credited with 17 carries for 51 yards.
As a team, Miami held a 433-335 advantage in total yards and 24-18 edge in first downs. The RedHawks 6.56 yards per play was second best in St. Petersburg bowl history, just short of the 6.56 ypp put up by UCG against Ball State in 2012. Miami was also able to hold onto the ball for 35:08.
Mississippi State, however, did not commit a turnover, although RedHawk defenders dropped what appeared to be two clear interception opportunities. Miami's offense turned it over twice – one interception and one fumble. Both were costly.
Miami scored first in the contest, settling for an 18-yard Dowd field goal after nearly getting a touchdown pass on the previous play.
The RedHawks did manage to get a touchdown from the passing game midway through the second quarter when James Garner caught Ragland’s 6-yard pass in tight coverage. However, it remained a 9-0 tilt when MSU blocked the PAT. It was decisive on its own and an omen of an even more devastating block to come at game's end.
Miami’s defense kept the Bulldogs heeled for much of the first half. Mississippi State final broke through, however, with 22 seconds left in the second period as Fitzgerald went off left tackle for a 2-yard score. For all Miami’s success over the first 30 minutes, the RedHawks took a narrow 9-7 to the locker room.