STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - A near-unstoppable ground game and a record-setting day by Nick Fitzgerald propelled Mississippi State back into the win column Saturday night, with the Bulldogs notching a 23-9 victory over No. 8 Auburn at Davis Wade Stadium.
The Bulldogs (4-2, 1-2 SEC) relied on a smash mouth approach to down the Tigers (4-2, 1-2), gashing AU on the ground for 349 yards led by Nick Fitzgerald's 195 that helped him pass Tim Tebow as the Southeastern Conference's all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks. Fitzgerald found the end zone for both of MSU's touchdowns on the night.
MSU also dominated time of possession, controlling the ball for 41 minutes, 53 seconds compared to Auburn's 18 minutes, seven seconds.
And, defensively, it was bend-but-don't-break night for the Bulldogs, who limited Auburn to 304 yards of total offense and just three field goals, coming up big on many occasions, including holding the Tigers to just 4-of-17 on third- and fourth-down conversions combined.
After teams traded field goals for much of the first half, the Bulldogs found pay dirt first as time expired in the second quarter with a one-yard score on a Fitzgerald quarterback draw up the middle to give State a 13-3 lead at the half.
Jace Christmann added his third field goal of the contest with 6:55 left in the third to cap off a 13-play drive that lasted over eight minutes and gave the Bulldogs a commanding 16-3 advantage.
The Tigers would try to chip away at State's lead with a Carlson kick to make it 16-6. Auburn looked to shrink the gap even further, threatening late in the third, but Mark McLaurin stripped a would-be Tiger touchdown out of the arms of Whitlow. Kobe Jones wrapped up the ball in the end zone for a touchback that ended the threat.
Carlson added his third field goal of the night with 11:24 remaining to cut MSU's lead to 16-9, hitting from 24 yards out. The Tigers would block an MSU field goal try on the ensuing drive and start in MSU territory after an MSU penalty on the play. But State's defense stood strong, holding AU to one first down on the drive and forced a turnover on downs.
On the next drive, Fitzgerald sealed the deal for the Maroon and White with his second score of the day, this one from 21 yards out with just over two minutes remaining to put State's lead up to a commanding 23-9.
McLaurin led the Bulldogs with 10 total tackles on the night, while Montez Sweat sacked Tiger signal-caller Jarrett Stidham three times, including one forced fumble. That sack total matched Sweat's career high set in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl win against Louisville.
Kylin Hill also eclipsed the 100-yard mark on Saturday, scampering for 126 yards on 23 attempts.