Ole Miss shocks Mississippi State after Fitzgerald's gruesome injury
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Jordan Ta'amu threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns, Jordan Wilkins ran for two scores and Mississippi upset No. 16 Mississippi State 31-28 on Thursday night.
Ole Miss (6-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) held off a late Mississippi State rally to win the Egg Bowl for the fourth time in six seasons. The Rebels had a 10-6 lead at halftime and broke it open in the second half with touchdown passes of 77 yards to A.J. Brown and 63 yards to D.K. Metcalf.
''I'm just so happy for our players and our fans,'' Ole Miss interim coach Matt Luke said. ''This means so much to them. It hasn't been always easy this year. We've been on some better teams with better records, but they'll always remember this year and how they fought through adversity.''
Brown, the SEC's leader in yards receiving, had six catches for 167 yards. Wilkins had 110 yards rushing.
Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4) was a two-touchdown favorite, but had to play most of the game without starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. He was carted off the field in the first quarter with a right leg injury.
Fitzgerald came into the game with 968 yards rushing this season, which was the most for a quarterback in the SEC. Without him, the Bulldogs turned to freshman Keytaon Thompson, but the offense wasn't nearly as effective until the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs trailed 31-13 with 8:23 remaining, but scored two touchdowns to pull to 31-28 with 1:05 left. Ole Miss recovered an onside kick to seal the victory.
''We just ran out of time there at the end,'' Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. ''Our guys gave relentless effort for 60 minutes. I just wish we had 61 or 62.''
Mississippi State hurt itself with five turnovers - two interceptions and three fumbles.
The game took a rough turn later in the first quarter when Fitzgerald took a snap and ran to the left before being tackled to the ground. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior immediately grabbed at his right leg, which was bent at an awkward angle. He was down for several minutes before being carted off the field.
Ole Miss: It's a sweet ending to a rough season for the Rebels. Ole Miss has an eventful offseason ahead of it - the program is still awaiting word on its full punishment from the NCAA in its rules infractions case against the school. The Rebels will also decide if they'll keep Luke or turn to someone else to lead the program.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs had all the momentum coming into Thursday's game, but Fitzgerald's injury changed all that in a hurry.
Ole Miss' season is over. The Rebels aren't eligible for the postseason because of a self-imposed bowl ban related to its NCAA infractions case.
Mississippi State prepares for its eighth straight trip to a bowl game.
Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.