Photo by Kelly Donoho/MSU Athletics

Story from Mississippi State

TAMPA, Fla. – A late fourth-quarter comeback attempt fell just short for No. 18 Mississippi State on New Year’s Day, with MSU dropping a 27-22 decision to Iowa in the Outback Bowl.

The Bulldogs (8-5) held the Hawkeyes (9-4) to under 200 yards of total offense, including -15 yards rushing. Nick Fitzgerald, in his final game as a Bulldog, totaled 255 yards of total offense, passing for 152 while gaining 103 on the ground. That performance marked the 21st time the Richmond Hill, Georgia, native had run for over 100 yards.

As a team, MSU gained 342 yards of offense, including 190 on the ground.

Also playing in his final game at MSU, Jeffery Simmons was one of several Bulldogs who made plays in the Hawkeye backfield, notching a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss to pace the Maroon and White. MSU’s defense posted 3 sacks and 7 TFLs against Iowa.

MSU got out to a 6-0 lead with a pair of first-quarter field goals by Jace Christmann from 44 and 42 yards out. The Hawkeyes then cut State’s lead in half with a 44-yard kick by Miguel Recinos.

Iowa then scored a pair of touchdowns through the air, with Nate Stanley hitting Nick Easley (75 yards) and Ihmir Smith-Marsette (15 yards) to give the Hawkeyes a 17-6 lead at the half.

The Bulldogs would come out of the locker room hot to score a pair of touchdowns within 18 seconds of one another, both off turnovers. First, a Willie Gay, Jr., interception return to the Iowa 6-yard line set up Kylin Hill’s 1-yard push over the goal line on a swing pass from Fitzgerald. A few seconds later, Mark McLaurin recovered a fumble on the kickoff return at the Iowa 33. The next play, Fitzgerald scampered for his 100th career touchdown to give State a 19-17 lead.

With the interception, the MSU defense continued its streak of takeaways, having forced a turnover in 15 straight games dating back to the 2017 season.

Iowa would reclaim the lead at 24-19 on an 8-yard touchdown catch by Easley late in the third quarter. A 20-yard kick by State’s Christmann would cut the deficit to 24-22 with 12:04 remaining.

A 40-yard kick by Recinos extended the Hawkeyes’ lead to 27-22 with 5:51 left.

State regained possession with 2:22 left, having to go 68 yards to score the go-ahead touchdown but with no timeouts remaining. Fitzgerald led the MSU offense into Hawkeye territory, reaching the Iowa 37. However, the nine-play drive ended on an incomplete fourth-down pass with 25 seconds left, turning the ball over on downs, and Iowa took a knee to secure the victory.

Fitzgerald finished his record-setting career ranked highly in several offensive categories in both MSU and Southeastern Conference record books, holding the top spot in career rushing yards by a QB (3,607) and most 100-yard rushing games (21) in SEC history. He also tied Kevin Faulk for fourth all-time in career rushing touchdowns.

In MSU history, Fitzgerald ranks first in career rushing touchdowns (46) while finishing second all-time in career rushing yards, career touchdowns responsible for (100), passing touchdowns (55) and total offense (9,814).

The Bulldogs open the 2019 campaign Aug. 31, battling Louisiana in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.