Iowa Defeats Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl

Ken Cross

January 02, 2019 at 1:19 pm.

Jan 1, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) throws the ball against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second quarter in the 2019 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 1, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) throws the ball against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second quarter in the 2019 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State came into Tuesday’s Outback Bowl with the nation’s number one defense. Allowing only 268.4 yards per game, clearly owning an advantage in overall speed and athleticism over Iowa.

But, the Bulldogs didn’t allow those two variables to play out to their benefit due to an afternoon of mistakes and faulty execution in a 27-22 loss to the Hawkeyes in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

Eight times Mississippi State was flagged for penalties totaling 90 yards. The Bulldogs also turned the ball over three times which led to 17 Hawkeyes points. Those three turnovers were only seven shy of their total of 10 through their 12-game schedule which saw them battle through the SEC wars with an 8-4 mark.

“Can’t turn the ball over; can’t give up explosive plays; got to score touchdowns and can’t have penalties take points off the board,” said Bulldogs coach Joe Moorhead after the game.

There were so many errors which were not only uncharacteristic, but also strange in nature. Wide receiver Stephen Guidry was in the middle of two of those in the fourth quarter, each of which could have resulted in a change of momentum which could have given MSU an opportunity for the win.

Guidry broke open down the right seam and had to wait on the pass from quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, but did secure it and ran in stride before Iowa’s Matt Hankins reached out and tripped him short of the goal line.

On the next three plays, Fitzgerald’s number was called in the running game each time where he lost two yards and Mississippi State settled for Jace Christmann’s 20-yard field goal, his third on the afternoon, which cut the Hawkeyes’ lead to 24-22 with 12:04 remaining.

“They are bringing seven to eight people on the blitz and there’s not many things that you can dial up to kind of free someone up and get an extra guy,” said Moorhead. “So the quarterback run is part of the plan that we had in anticipating the defense that we saw.”

After Iowa went three-and-out, the Bulldogs started to march again as Fitzgerald hit Osirus Mitchell on a 34-yard strike on the left side line to the Hawkeyes 31.  After Kylin Hill had carries of eight and three years to the Hawkeyes’ 20, Guidry found himself in the middle of the fray again.

As he broke open in the end zone, Fitzgerald found Guidry open in the end zone which saw the ball bounce off his shoulder and then his hands. Iowa linebacker Jake Gervase snatched it off his hands and returned it to the Iowa 28 with 8:42 to play.

“That was a huge momentum swing there,” said Moorhead. “You don’t score a touchdown and you get three on the board and you’re up there; instead of that, you’re taking points off the board for you, and I believe they scored a field goal on that drive. It was definitely a momentum shift.”

Quick Flip: The Bulldogs found themselves down 17-6 at halftime after Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley found Nick Easley on a 75-yard play action pass, which saw Johnathan Abram bite on the play action pass and lose Easley with no safety help over the top. That allowed the slower Easley to run free into the end zone and give Iowa its first lead at 10-6 with 8:06 remaining before intermission.

This was the Hawkeyes’ longest play from scrimmage of the season and the longest play that the Bulldogs had given up during the year as well.

Later in the quarter, Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa hit Fitzgerald from his blind side and Chauncey Gholston recovered on the Bulldogs’ 15. Stanley found Ihmir Smith-Marsette on a 15-yard touchdown pass to give Iowa a 17-6 lead at the break.

The two touchdowns occurred within 1:37 of each other as the Hawkeyes were begging for as many positives of possible after having -8 yards offense in the first quarter.

Quick start:  Out of halftime, the Bulldogs picked up the momentum change they needed when Willie Gay, Jr., returned a Stanley interception 46 yards to the Hawkeyes 6-yard line. Fitzpatrick then found Kylin Hill on a 1-yard touchdown pass to cut the margin to 17-12 as the two-point conversion failed.

Smith-Marsette had the bad luck of Guidry on the ensuing kickoff as a Hawkeye’s helmet knocked the ball out of his hands and into the mitts of Bulldog Mark McLaurin which set up Mississippi State on the Iowa 33-yard line.

On the next play, Fitzgerald went on a sweep off the right end for a 33-yard touchdown run as the Bulldogs regained the lead at 19-17 with 11:20 remaining in the third quarter.

These two scores were 18 seconds apart

For the game, Fitzgerald rushed for 103 yards on 20 carries, his seventh 100-plus rushing day on the season.

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