STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) Fresh off a loss on the road to Texas A&M, with their starting quarterback under the weather and Troy, a lackluster non-conference opponent, coming to town, there were plenty of reasons for Mississippi State to come out flat and slog through an almost-assured victory Saturday.
But instead, the Bulldogs came out white-hot, scoring touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in the first quarter on their way to a 45-17 rout.
”We had a little edge to us to start the game off,” head coach Dan Mullen said. ”We exploded into that game. You look at how we played in that first half and I think we got after it in every phase.”
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Mississippi State (4-2) normally channels their offense through Dak Prescott. But Prescott played only the first four series with a stomach ailment before turning the offense over to Nick Fitzgerald.
”We’re roommates,” Fitzgerald said. ”So when he woke up this morning and told me he was throwing up all night, it hit me that this was time to get ready to go. My mindset somewhat switched.”
Fitzgerald, a freshman who had thrown a combined four passes in two previous games this season, managed the onslaught. He was 6 of 7 for 141 yards passing and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 29 yards and another touchdown.
Mississippi State had 336 yards of total offense, 211 of that through the air.
Troy (1-4) dominated the time of possession (40:25) in the game, but managed only two trips to the red zone against Mississippi State’s physical, bend-but-don’t-break defensive scheme.
”Today we had a lot of guys playing nasty defense,” Mullen said. ”This is the type of defense I expect us to play.”
De’Runnya Wilson, Fred Ross and Donald Gray each caught touchdown passes.
The tempo for the game was set early. On the second play from scrimmage, Prescott found Ross for a 65-yard touchdown catch.
”Dak did a good job carrying out the fake and getting the defense off him,” Ross said. ”Bear (Wilson) also did a great job on the perimeter block, which made my job easy.”
On the ensuing Troy possession, quarterback Brandon Silvers fumbled into the end zone and Nelson Adams recovered it for a touchdown. Later in the quarter is was Ross again, running back a 77-yard punt for a score.
Westin Graves hit a 42-yard field goal in the second quarter, Fitzgerald found Wilson for a 28-yard score and Fitzgerald scored on a 1-yard run.
The Bulldogs led 38-0 at halftime.
”We got overwhelmed by their team’s speed,” Troy head coach Neal Brown said. ”They have the speed, and not just the speed but the length, that we are looking for.”
Troy ate up most of the third quarter with a 9-minute, 77-yard drive that culminated in a 5-yard touchdown run by Dontreal Pruitt. The Trojans scored again toward the end of the quarter with a 74-yard run by Brandon Burks.
After Troy botched a 51-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter, Fitzgerald connected with Donald Gray for a 49-yard touchdown to re-extend the MSU lead. Troy couldn’t score again until the final minute of the game when Jed Solomon hit 21-yard field goal.
Prescott finished the game 3 of 6 for 74 yards and a touchdown.