Blocked Kicks Save St. Petersburg for MSU

It seems fitting that the final game of Mississippi State University’s 2016 football season came down to a special-teams play. One of the biggest question marks for this squad since the opening game was special teams.

MSU lost the first game of the season against the University of South Alabama due to a http://www.espn.com/college-football/game?gameId=400868975">missed 28-yard field goal. There were other special-teams blunders along the way for the Bulldogs, so it made sense for the http://www.espn.com/college-football/recap?gameId=400876090">final play of the season to come down to a kick.

Late in the St. Petersburg Bowl on Monday, Dec. 26, the MSU Bulldogs, clinging to a 17-16 lead, watched Miami University from Ohio drive to their 20-yard line.

On third down and 20 yards, with 14 seconds left, the Miami RedHawks decided to try for a potential game-winning 37-yard field goal. It felt like the Bulldogs would end their season with the opposing team making a massive kick.

Instead, MSU defensive lineman Nelson Adams stuck his big paw into the air and blocked the field-goal attempt to seal the victory for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs ran out the final five seconds to finish off the game.

Adams’ block was the second in the game for the Bulldogs. MSU also blocked a Miami extra point after starting the game with a Christmas hangover.

Miami jumped out to a 3-0 lead on http://www.espn.com/college-football/playbyplay?gameId=400876090">its first drive of the game and added to that lead with RedHawks quarterback Gus Ragland’s six-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. The http://www.espn.com/college-football/playbyplay?gameId=400876090">RedHawks were up 9-0 after the initial blocked extra point, as the Bulldogs struggled to get going.

With 22 seconds left before halftime, MSU finally http://www.espn.com/college-football/playbyplay?gameId=400876090">broke through with a touchdown on a two-yard run from quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to cut Miami’s lead to only two points at the break.

The RedHawks added to that lead with a third-quarter http://www.espn.com/college-football/playbyplay?gameId=400876090">touchdown to go up 16-7 on the Bulldogs, but Mississippi State answered right back on its next drive to stay in the game as Fitzgerald made a http://www.espn.com/college-football/playbyplay?gameId=400876090">44-yard touchdown run. That touchdown cut the Miami lead to two points yet again late in the third quarter.

On the ensuing RedHawks drive, MSU corner Jamoral Graham http://www.espn.com/college-football/playbyplay?gameId=400876090">picked off Ragland at the beginning of the fourth quarter, setting up Flowood, Miss.-native kicker Westin Graves to cap off a seven-play drive with a http://www.espn.com/college-football/playbyplay?gameId=400876090">36-yard field goal, taking the lead 17-16.

Graves’ field goal ended up being all the Bulldogs needed on offense to win the game. MSU’s defense played a solid game and kept the team in the running until the offense could get going.

The Bulldogs’ defense forced two turnovers, with senior linebacker Richie Brown forcing and recovering a fumble in the second quarter and Graham’s interception. The fumble helped to keep MSU alive, and the interception helped to win the game.

Fitzgerald struggled in passing, going 13 for 26 on throws for 136 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. The http://www.espn.com/college-football/boxscore?gameId=400876090">quarterback did the most damage on the ground, as he rushed for 132 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns and earned MVP honors for the game.

For Miami, http://www.espn.com/college-football/boxscore?gameId=400876090">Ragland made the offense work, just like he has since coming back from an ACL injury to save the RedHawks’ season. He passed for 263 yards, completing 22 of 30 throws for two touchdowns and a costly interception.

The interception was the http://www.espn.com/blog/ncfnation/post/_/id/135202/mississippi-state-blocks-kick-to-win-st-petersburg-bowl-close-season-on-high-note">first in Ragland’s college career, which has consisted of 17 games thus far. http://www.espn.com/college-football/matchup?gameId=400876090">Miami outgained MSU 433 yards to 335 and won the time of possession 35:08 to 24:52.

Brown ended his college career http://www.espn.com/college-football/boxscore?gameId=400876090">with phenomenal game for the Bulldogs. He racked up nine total tackles, seven solo tackles and one pass defended to go along with his forced fumble and fumble recovery.

Mississippi State http://www.msnewsnow.com/story/34132155/blocked-fg-helps-mississippi-state-win-st-petersburg-bowl">improved to 5-2 in bowl games under head coach Dan Mullen and 12-8 all-time in bowl games. The Bulldogs will be back to open the next season at home against Charleston Southern University on Sept. 2, 2017.


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