Guaranteed Maroon Win Night in Aggieland

by BoCarter | Posted on Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Special –- Nov. 2, 2017

Brother Schools Wearing Maroon, White Tangle For SEC Respect, Bowl Bids

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – It was the Emory Bellard/Jackie Sherrill Classis and Guaranteed Maroon and White Win Night.

 

Even more important were the implications of bowl eligibility for both teams, critical placement in the Southeastern Conference West Division standings and an almost-intersectional tussle of tradition Southeast and Southwest U.S. powers.

 

The end result was a somewhat-surprising 35-14 win by Mississippi State (6-2, 3-2 SEC) over homestanding Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2) at Kyle Field on Oct. 28.

 

The fact that the late Bellard (1972-78 in Aggieland and 1979-85 at Mississippi State as head coach) and Sherrill (who attended the contest with wife Peggy and headed the A&M program from 1982-88 and MSU from 1991-93) coached at both competing schools and turned around lagging programs at four different times was not lost on historians of the now-SEC rivals.

 

Sherrill, as a matter of fact, guided the Aggies to an unprecedented three consecutive Southwest Conference titles from 1985-87 while Bellard took A&M and MSU back to bowl games in his early years at both places.

 

Now head coaches Dan Mullen at MSU and Kevin Sumlin of A&M hold the reins and have been able to build upon some of the success of their predecessors.

 

In this case, though, it was the visiting Bulldogs who set the tone early with shutout defense (14-0 lead) in the first half and semi-coasted to the triumph. That was puzzling in a way because the Aggies were coming off an open date after downing Florida 19-17 in Gainesville and having a near-miss loss to No. 1 Alabama (the closest any team has come to downing the Crimson Tide all season) 27-19 at Kyle Field.

 

“”Obviously, our execution was not anywhere where it needed to be offensively,” Sumlin said. “We missed the first two big plays. Get behind them and had an overthrow and a drop after starting fast with a turnover coming out of the gate and field position, and then give up a long drive. We started off the game fast, and we didn’t continue with the way we started the game.”

 

State’s Mullen was just as ecstatic as Sumlin was somber in the Bulldogs’ first win at College Station since 1913 in a lightly-played series now led by the Bulldogs 6-5 after 11 clashes.

 

“Any time you beat a Top 25 team on the road,” he noted, “that’s huge for the program. The defense took over the game in the first half.”

 

And on a more humorous note after dire predictions by some media outlets in pre-2017 for MSU’s campaign, bowl eligibility and the magic six-win mark (with four regular-season games remaining) gave the MSU mentor an even better reason to smile.

 

“I guess we made their predictions come true,” he said with a grin, “and I guess we hit that (six wins and bowl eligibility).”

 

Besides holding the Aggies to 33 net yards of total offense in the first quarter and the missed opportunities for big plays by A&M, the Bulldogs also utilized the key talents of 6-5, 230-pound bruiser QB Nick Fitzgerald almost to perfection.

 

Already the sixth quarterback in SEC annals to rush for 2,000 career yards, Fitzgerald ran for the game’s opening touchdown from two yards and passed for two others while piling up 105 yards on 18 carries while passing 21 times with 12 completions and 141. He also had the game’s longest scamper with a 45-yarder.

 

The final clincher for the visitors also came with 7:23 remaining and the Aggies driving in MSU territory to try and cut the margin to two touchdowns. Bulldogs DB Jamal Peters snared a pass that went through three sets of hands and raced 90 yards untouched to set the stage for a 35-7 advantage.

 

A bright spot on a rugged night for the Ags was the return of QB Nick Starkel who broke his ankle in the season opener at UCLA. Starkel threw the TD pick but went 8-for-15 for 133 yards and a 70-yard TD toss to Camron Buckley for A&M’s final score. Starter Kellen Mond struggled at 8-for-26 via the air and two picks with 56 total net yards. Big-play wide receiver Christian Kirk made five catches for an uncharacteristic 33 yards – 6.6 yards average.

 

Regardless, with the SEC West Division race coming down the home stretch and bowl respectability on the line (Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to a school-record eight consecutive postseason bids while Sumlin has taken A&M and his former assignment Houston to eight bowl berths in the last nine seasons and impending post-2017 berth), the maroon-clad Aggies and Bulldogs should provide plenty of thrills for fans in the final four weeks before the Power Five championship tilts Dec. 2.

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