Mississippi State forces 4 turnovers to roll No. 17 Texas A&M

mississippi state football
Chris McDill/Getty Images
6 Comments

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Offensive opportunities were there for the taking by No. 17 Texas A&M. Mississippi State’s defense was also there to deny the Aggies at almost every turn.

The Bulldogs forced A&M into four turnovers, including three inside the red zone, and took advantage in a 42-24 victory on Saturday.

Decamerion Richardson scooped up Emmanuel Forbes’ critical third-quarter field goal block and returned it 50 yards for the touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 21-3 lead. The Aggies (3-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) got no closer than 11 as MSU’s defense denied A&M inside the 20 all game long with big plays.

“We’ve been practicing all week and when I got my chance, I just took advantage of it and blocked it,” Forbes said. “It was a real big momentum change. The offense had just got a turnover and we had to pick them up and we did that.

“I saw (Richardson) pick it up and I just wanted to go have fun with him in the end zone. I’d do anything to help my brother out.”

The first takeaway came early in the second quarter when Devon Achane fumbled on the 6. MSU responded with a 94-yard, 11-play drive ending with Will Rogers‘ 5-yard touchdown pass to Rufus Harvey.

Leading 14-0 just before halftime, the Bulldogs’ defense came through again as Nathaniel Watson forced Aggies quarterback Max Johnson to fumble in the red zone. Forbes’ blocked field goal in the third quarter put an exclamation point on the game for MSU and their first SEC West win.

“The biggest thing was we just played together. Early on we played too close to the vest and as we opened up, we had more success,” MSU coach Mike Leach said. “They had a tough time teeing off on one thing. A&M is tough.

“They have some really good players and some of the top recruits in the country. The biggest thing is doing your job and I thought we were.”

The Bulldogs (4-1, 1-1) had another efficient day offensively with 473 yards, 329 of those from Rogers on 31-of-45 passing with three touchdowns. Rara Thomas had five catches for 134 yards and a score and MSU rushed for 144 yards on 24 carries.

Meanwhile, the Aggies were frustrated on offense. Johnson was 18 of 25 passing for 201 yards and a touchdown before leaving in the fourth quarter with a hand injury. MSU sacked Johnson four times and posted six tackles for loss, led by 1.5 sacks by backup linebacker JP Purvis.

“Mississippi State played a good football game and is deserving to win,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We had critical errors in all three phases. We didn’t play well enough. We had opportunities to make it, but we didn’t get off the field on defense, we didn’t hit those red zone chances on offense and had the blocked kick. We have to clean up those mistakes and get better.”

Forbes then made two interceptions late in the fourth quarter and capped the game with a 33-yard pick-six. Fellow cornerback Richardson had nine tackles to lead MSU and got his touchdown on the blocked kick.

The win for Leach moved him to 9-4 lifetime over the Aggies between Texas Tech and MSU. The Bulldogs have won five of the last seven in the series and Leach now has six wins over ranked opponents in his three years in Starkville, moving above .500 at MSU overall for the first time since arriving in 2020.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Texas A&M is likely out of the rankings with a second loss. Mississippi State could be close to getting in.

THE TAKEAWAY

Texas A&M continues a lackluster start to the year, which has included a home loss to Appalachian State and now on the road to the Bulldogs. Jimbo Fisher’s offense has taken a lot of the criticism early, and Saturday is likely to spark more as the Aggies struggled again.

Mississippi State was on the verge of the Top 25 when the Bulldogs went to Baton Rouge against LSU but missed a chance for the win. After consecutive wins including a victory over the ranked Aggies, MSU is once again a team to watch in a crowded SEC West.

UP NEXT

Texas A&M visits No. 2 Alabama on Saturday.

Mississippi State hosts No. 20 Arkansas on Saturday.

Achane leads No. 23 Texas A&M past No. 10 Arkansas, 23-21

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

ARLINGTON, Texas – Devon Achane rushed for 159 yards and a touchdown, Demani Richardson sprinted the final 82 yards on a wild fumble return for another score and No. 23 Texas A&M beat 10th-ranked Arkansas 23-21 on Saturday night.

The Razorbacks (3-1, 1-1 SEC) had a chance to take the lead with 1:30 remaining, but Cam Little’s 42-yard field goal attempt from the left hashmark hit near the top of the right upright – and fluttered to the ground in the end zone no good. That drive came right after the Aggies had missed a longer field goal attempt.

Texas A&M (3-1, 1-0) has back-to-back wins over ranked teams since that embarrassing 17-14 home loss to Appalachian State two weeks ago. The conference opener for the Aggies came a week after a 17-9 win over then-No. 13 Miami, which then dropped 12 spots and now will be unranked after a 45-31 loss at home against Middle Tennessee State earlier Saturday.

“We’re by far not close to where we need. We have to fix some self-inflicted wounds, got to clean things up,” Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher said. “But we beat two good football teams not playing very well, not at the top of our game, but playing well at times and still competing and making plays when we had to, and it’s very encouraging.”

Arkansas led 14-0 after TD passes by KJ Jefferson on consecutive drives in the first quarter. He first threw a screen that Ketron Jackson turned into a 32-yard score before finding Warren Thompson wide open behind the secondary for a 56-yarder.

But after the Razorbacks responded to Max Johnson‘s 10-yard TD pass to Evan Stewart by driving 72 yards in 11 plays to the 3, Jefferson for some reason tried to leap over the blocking linemen at the 3 and lost the ball.

“That’s a tough one. Give A&M all the credit in the world, they fought back from 14 down,” Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman said. “They had a couple of big plays … and certainly a big fumble recovery.”

Jefferson ended up going straight up instead and the ball was knocked out of his hands by linebacker Chris Russell and was picked out of the air by Tyreek Chappell, who took off the other way and found himself in the standing grasp of running back Raheim Sanders near the 20. But he handed the ball to Richardson, who took it to the end zone.

“Big momentum play. That helped us a lot,” Achane said.

Fisher said he didn’t “know if it saved us, but it made it a lot easier to win.”

Even though the Aggies failed to convert the tying extra point, that touchdown was part of 23 consecutive points. They went ahead for good on Achane’s 9-yard TD that capped the opening drive of the second half for a 20-14 lead.

Johnson, the LSU transfer, was 11-of-21 passing for 151 yards in his second A&M start. Jefferson completed 12 of 19 passes for 171 yards and ran 18 times for 105 yards. Jefferson had a 6-yard scoring run with 10 minutes left in the game.

THE TAKEAWAY

Texas A&M: The Aggies recovered from their slow start offensively, when they went 3-and-out on their first four drives. They trailed 14-0 before getting their initial first down on a 63-yard run by Achane midway through the second quarter.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks missed a chance to have consecutive 4-0 starts for the first time since 1988-89, which was still a couple of seasons before joining the SEC. The Hogs haven’t won their first two SEC games since 2006. They got to 4-0 overall last year with a win over the Aggies, who had won nine in a row in the series before that.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Aggies will regain a few of the spots they’ve lost since being sixth in the preseason and through the first week, but they will still be quite a way from being back in the top 10. Arkansas will certainly slip.

UP NEXT

Arkansas is at home to play No. 2 Alabama next Saturday.

Texas A&M travels to Mississippi State next Saturday for the second of four consecutive games away from Kyle Field.

App State uses two turnovers to stun No. 6 Texas A&M 17-14

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – On paper, there was no reason to believe that Appalachian State would have a chance Saturday against No. 6 Texas A&M.

But Mountaineers coach Shawn Clark, who makes 10 times less than the over $9 million Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher receives each season at the Southeastern Conference school, made it clear to his 18 1/2-point underdog team that the game is not played on paper and mindset would mean everything.

“The key was belief,” an exhausted Clark said. “You have to believe in yourself and believe in this program. I told them take the logo off of the helmet, take the logo off the field and let’s go play football.”

And play football they did, with Chase Brice throwing for 134 yards and a touchdown and a stingy defense taking advantage of two turnovers to stun the Aggies 17-14.

“It didn’t feel real at first,” Brice said. “I’ll be honest, I was just in shock. I just couldn’t believe the way we fought and finished. It was just great.”

Appalachian State won a week after scoring six touchdowns and 40 points in the fourth quarter in a 63-61 opening loss to North Carolina.

“It means something to me to beat the No. 6-ranked program,” Clark said. “It’s two different programs. We don’t recruit at the same level. We don’t have what they have, but we have a lot of heart and we have the right kind of players in our program.”

Clark was thrilled to see Brice lead his team to the win after his school-record six-touchdown performance last week wasn’t enough to complete the comeback.

“He was crushed,” Clark said. “He loves this program and today was his shining moment.”

Along with the victory, the Mountaineers got a fat $1.5 million check to take back with them to Boone, North Carolina, for playing this game.

Appalachian State (1-1) settled for a 29-yard field goal by Michael Hughes to take a 17-14 lead with about eight minutes left after Christian Wells was wide open but dropped a touchdown pass on third down.

The Aggies (1-1) had a chance to tie it with about 3 1/2 minutes to go, but a 47-yard field goal attempt by Caden Davis was short.

Camerun Peoples, who finished with 112 yards rushing, had a 1-yard run on third down on the next possession to keep Appalachian State’s drive going. He then dashed 48 yards to the 12 on the next play and the Mountaineers ran out the clock.

“At the end of the day, that’s my fault as the head football coach,” Fisher said. “We have to have guys ready in all three phases. We had chances to make plays in all three phases.. We had opportunities, but we have to coach it better. That’s on me.”

It’s Appalachian State’s first win over a team in The AP Top 25 as a FBS team after losing in overtime to No. 9 Tennessee in 2016 and dropping an OT game to No. 9 Penn State in 2018.

The Mountaineers famously knocked off No. 5 Michigan 34-32 with a last-second blocked field goal in Ann Arbor in 2007 when they were still in the FCS.

“Respect all those guys they were great,” offensive lineman Cooper Hodges said. “But I’m tired of hearing about Michigan. I want our legacy to be Sun Belt champions and I want our legacy to be beating Texas A&M.”

The Mountaineers kept A&M’s offense in check a week after Clark was left looking for ways to fix his defense after the 63-point outburst by North Carolina.

Devon Achane ran for a touchdown in the first half and returned a kickoff for a score in the third, but the Aggies had trouble getting much else going on a mistake-filled day.

The Mountaineers outgained A&M 305-186 and had 22 first downs to just nine by the Aggies. They controlled time of possession, too, holding a 41:29 to 18:31 advantage in that area.

Fisher said he would consider a change at quarterback this week after a sub-par performance by Haynes King. He added that they probably would have made the switch Saturday if the game had gone differently.

“We were but we never had the ball,” he said. “If we had got more possessions maybe so.”

The Aggies were driving in the third quarter when Dexter Lawson Jr. forced a fumble by Evan Stewart after a 13-yard reception and it was recovered by Nick Hampton.

The Mountaineers took a 14-7 lead when Henry Pearson grabbed a 9-yard TD reception from Brice with about 2 1/2 minutes left in the third.

The lead was short-lived as Achane returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown seconds later. Achane, who is a sprinter on Texas A&M’s track team, juked a defender before shedding a would-be tackler and racing downfield for the score to tie it at 14-all.

King was sacked by DeAndre Dingle-Prince and fumbled late in the first quarter. Texas A&M lineman Layden Robinson recovered the ball, but he also fumbled and this time Appalachian State recovered it.

They cashed in on the mistake when Ahmani Marshall scored on a 4-yard touchdown run that made it 7-0 early in the second quarter.

The Aggies tied it up when Achane dashed 26 yards for a touchdown on the next drive.

King finished with 97 yards passing.

THE TAKEAWAY

The loss puts a huge dent on Texas A&M’s preseason goal of finally contending for a national title, leaving the Aggies in an early hole before they even begin the rigors of SEC play.

RECORD TALK

Fisher was hired to take A&M to the next level after coach Kevin Sumlin was fired after his sixth season. But so far Fisher hasn’t done any better than Sumlin did in his time with the Aggies.

Sumlin was 36-14 in his first 50 games and Saturday’s loss dropped Fisher to 35-15 in his first 50.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Aggies are certain to plummet in the poll after losing to an unranked opponent. Appalachian State should enter the poll after the big upset.

UP NEXT

Appalachian State: Hosts Troy next Saturday.

Texas A&M: Hosts No. 15 Miami next Saturday night.