Jimbo Fisher wants No. 11 Texas A&M to savor a big victory.
For Fisher and the Aggies that means remembering what they did well against then-No. 4 Florida and repeating that performance when they visit Mississippi State on Saturday.
Fisher has downplayed last week’s 41-38 triumph as a signature win for Texas A&M (2-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference). What’s important is the follow-up, especially against a 1-2 Bulldogs squad desperate to halt a two-game slide.
“One win is a great game and why we had success, do it again,” said Fisher, whose team vaulted 10 spots in the rankings following its first win over a top-five team since 2014.
“You’ve gotta stay with a chip on your shoulder to play. You’ve got to compete. And if you don’t in this league, they’ll take it away from you so fast.”
Texas A&M bounced back from a 28-point loss to No. 2 Alabama by racking up 543 yards against the Gators and positioning itself for a game-winning field goal at the end. The question is whether the Aggies might need those gaudy numbers to win in Starkville, Mississippi.
Especially if the Bulldogs correct what has grounded the “Air Raid” offense the past two games.
Turnovers are the main culprit, including six interceptions combined by K.J. Costello and Will Rogers during last week’s 24-2 loss at Kentucky. Since beating defending champion LSU 44-34 in the opener, the Bulldogs have suddenly become scoring challenged as the Wildcats shut them out a week after they managed just 14 points against Arkansas.
Though Costello (nine interceptions, six TDs) has drawn scrutiny for his decision making, first-year MSU coach Mike Leach said his team needs to improve in all phases. Especially if the Bulldogs hope to stall the Aggies’ momentum.
“We need to take care of the football better, for sure,” said Leach, whose squad is minus-9 in turnover ratio. “I don’t think we’re protecting well. I don’t think we’re seeing the field very well. And I don’t think we’re catching very well or running routes very well.
“We have the ability to do it because we’ve seen them do it. In some cases, maybe some of the young guys have stage fright. Some cases, we just need to work harder and develop some of the experience that allows us to do that.”
Some other things to watch as Texas A&M visits Mississippi State:
Mississippi State allowed just 157 yards at Kentucky and enters ranked 12th in FBS total defense at 285.7 allowed per contest. Rushing has been especially hard against the Bulldogs, who allow just under 76 yards per game and rank fifth. They also boast the SEC’s top pass rush with 12 sacks. They’ll face an Aggies offense ranked 19th (455.0) and coming off a performance against Florida that included 205 yards rushing.
Already Texas A&M’s career leader with 680 completions and 1,168 attempts, quarterback Kellen Mond passed for 338 yards last week to become No. 1 all-time with 8,224 yards as well. Besides posting his seventh career 300-yard game, the senior improved to 24-13 and can tie for second all-time with another victory.
As Mississippi State sorts out its ground game, senior back Kylin Hill continues thriving as a receiving option in the Air Raid. His 15 receptions at Kentucky tied a school single-game record and he comes in averaging 7.7 catches per game. His 237 yards receiving include 225 after the catch, which leads the SEC.
Bulldogs junior punter Tucker Day was impressive at Kentucky with four kicks over 60 yards and two downed inside the 20. He’s averaging a conference-best 51.7 yards on 10 attempts, just ahead of Georgia’s Jake Camarda (51.4) and Kentucky’s Max Duffy (48.1).
Leach went 7-3 against Texas A&M at Texas Tech, including two wins while the Aggies were ranked. Meanwhile, MSU upset a ranked A&M squad three consecutive years from 2016-18, highlighted by a 35-28 win in ’16 with the Aggies ranked fourth.
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