If it’s usually considered good advice to follow your dreams, never give up, and stay in school, today’s St. Petersburg Bowl between the Miami RedHawks and the Mississippi State Bulldogs is a slap in the face to every teacher and counselor you’ve ever had and every “well, son” talk your father ever gave you.
You went to class, you did your homework? You started 0-6 with bowl eligibility seemingly a pipe dream, only to storm back and win your final six games to become bowl eligible? Those are quite the accomplishments, and they deserve to be rewarded! How about an 11 AM kickoff on a Monday morning in a baseball tomb?
Miami started out returning the opening kickoff back to their own 40, bringing quarterback Gus Ragland and the RedHawks offense out, where they converted a flea-flicker for a first down on their first play from scrimmage. Ragland connected with Kenny Young, bringing the RedHawks to the 8-yard line, before tight end Ryan Smith brought the ball to the two. They could not, however, punch the ball in, and settled for a short field goal to take a 3-0 lead at around the ten-minute mark. The first quarter saw no more scoring.
The second quarter opened explosively, as a Miami reception was fumbled and recovered by Mississippi State, before Miami got the ball back on a punt. James Gardner hauled in a pass inside the ten before Ragland connected with him again for a touchdown. Because Monday morning football isn’t complete without some craziness, Mississippi State blocked the PAT.
MSU took over and activated CLANGA with a kickoff return to their own 40. The Bulldogs went for it on fourth down in Miami territory, but could not convert as an official, considered part of the field of play, was in the way. Miami punted on the ensuing drive with a little over three minutes left, but led at the half, 9-7.
In the third, Alonzo Smith rushed for a first down after a Mississippi State punt, and the Bulldogs were called for a hold, giving the RedHawks ten yards. Gardner snagged a pass at the Bulldogs’ 3, and Ragland found Ryan Smith from the one for a touchdown. Miami led 16-7 with 8:11 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs punctuated their next drive with a 44-yard Fitzgerald run for a touchdown to trim the RedHawks’ lead to 16-14. A 2nd and 16 following a Ragland sack seemingly knocked Miami out of four-down territory, but they opted to go for it on 4th and 13, only for Ragland to be intercepted by Jamoral Graham as the fourth quarter started.
Fitzgerald, MSU’s best
runningquarterback, saved another drive with a rushing first down, and the RedHawks didn’t help their cause by earning a 15-yard penalty off a hit that knocked Fitzgerald’s helmet off. Deondre Daniels was ejected for targeting upon review of the play. The Bulldogs were held to a field goal on the drive, but it was good enough for a 17-16 lead with twelve to go in the fourth.
MSU was stopped on a crucial 3rd and 3 while Nick Fitzgerald’s helmet came off again, his ‘Bama bangs longing to be free. The Bulldogs went for it on 4th down, and backup quarterback Damian Williams, in for Fitzgerald after his helmet mishap, could not find a receiver, giving Miami the ball at their own 22 with just over three minutes to work with. Miami went for a field goal with 14 seconds left on third down, and Nick Dowd’s kick was duly blocked.
Well, the RedHawks blew it.
People will talk about the blocked extra point early in the game coming back to bite them, and that’s true, as it was only a one-point game, but Miami let that game slip away on a deeper level than that.
They couldn’t consistently stop Nick Fitzgerald, and it should be telling that he nearly equaled his passing yardage on the ground (136 passing yards, 132 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns). Then there was the blocked field goal to end the game.
One could argue there wasn’t enough time to run another play and get the field goal unit out, unless Ragland scrambled a bit and tried for an incompletion, but third down and 14 seconds left still seems early. A crushing way to lose for Miami, who will finish 6-7 on the season.
Mississippi State finishes a forgettable 2016 campaign at 6-7 as well.