COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Desperate for promotion after consecutive close losses, Mississippi State found a mammoth beating 15th-ranked Texas A&M on Saturday night.
Will Rogers threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns and Nathan Pickering sacked Zack Calzada in the late end zone to safety in Mississippi State’s 26–22 victory.
“It’s always good to win at Kyle’s field and I’ve done it more than most guys,” said coach Mike Leach, who improved to 4-2 at College Station.
Rogers hopes that the win will lead the team to more success this season.
“I think we’re doing special things,” he said. “I think the program is going in the right direction and tonight was a big step in that direction.”
Rogers was sacked twice, and the Bulldogs had two false-start penalties backed by Nolan McCord’s 49-yard field goal attempt before he was sent wide with nearly eight minutes left.
About two minutes later the Aggies cut the lead on a 44-yard field goal by Seth Smalls.
Texas A&M (3-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) forced a punt for a chance to take the lead. But Calzada, a backup on his third start, was taken down by Pickering with almost two minutes left to extend the lead to 26–22 for safety on the third down, and the Bulldogs ran out of clock to secure the win.
“We played together,” Leach said. “Hung in there. Didn’t struggle with the emotional ups and downs.”
Mackai Polk had 13 receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns to help Mississippi State (3-2, 1-1) snap a two-game skid.
Polk was asked about the key to the game.
“Just being confident in yourself, trusting each other and having regular drama,” he said.
This is the second consecutive loss for the Aggies after winning their last 11 games and is a major blow to the team entering the season with hopes of a national championship.
Texas A&M dropped a season-high mark as coach Jimbo Fischer and the Aggies struggled to stop Leach’s airstrike offense. Things only get tougher for the Aggies next week with the top-ranked trip to Alabama coming next Saturday night.
“We have to play better. In those games where every right counts, every game matters, we have to do better,” Fischer said.
Calzada threw for 135 yards with a touchdown and an interception and Isaiah Spiller ran for 100 yards for Texas A&M.
“I thought Zach grew up and did some good plays at times,” Fisher said. “Some things he’s got to clean up. But he’s growing.”
Polk’s second touchdown came on a 20-yard reception that extended the lead to 24-13 with almost seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. Jaylon Jones was covering him, but slipped and fell just before the ball came in to leave Polk open for the score.
Calzada went for 25 yards for the touchdown with just over a minute left in the third quarter, but his 2-point conversion effort was sabotaged to leave the Aggies 24–19.
Things went wrong for the Eggies at the start of this one. Fred Peters caught an interception after Calzada’s first pass was deflected. But the Bulldogs could not move the ball and set out for a field goal of 24 yards.
The Aggies took a 7-3 lead when Calzada threw an 11-yard TD pass to Jalen Wiedermaier, with about 9 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter.
Rogers found a Jaden volley to score 1 yard later to put Mississippi State in the top 10-7.
Aggies added a field goal at the start of the second quarter and another put them on top 13-7 with almost three minutes left in the first half.
Polk held on to the end zone corner for a 15-yard touchdown that gave the Bulldogs a 17-13 halftime lead.
The Aggies could be in for a long night next Saturday against mighty Alabama after struggling against lesser opponents in these two defeats.
“You play every week to be a good football player, a good team, and win games. We have to line up every week and play a good game and see where the year takes us,” Fischer said.
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Jackie Sherrill, who coached both Texas A&M and Mississippi State, walked past Leach’s postgame news conference to congratulate him on the win.
“It’s a big deal to come here and win,” Sherrill said.
Leach replied: “I’m glad you weren’t coaching.”
Aegis will fall into the pole and may even be out completely after consecutive defeats.
Mississippi State: hosts Alabama on October 16.
Texas A&M: Hosts Alabama on Saturday Nights.
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