The Bulldogs (4-2) executed a balanced plan of attack and got a combined four-touchdown performance from Nick Fitzgerald—with two TDs on the ground and two through the air. Photo courtesy Kelly Price/MSU Athletics
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — After a bye week and two straight blowout losses on the road to ranked opponents, Mississippi State retook control of the narrative of its season with 35-10 victory over BYU on Saturday.
"We did some silly things, made some silly mistakes, but overall I liked our performance," coach Dan Mullen said. "I liked our mindset coming off of the bye week."
The Bulldogs (4-2) executed a balanced plan of attack and got a combined four-touchdown performance from Nick Fitzgerald—with two TDs on the ground and two through the air. MSU had 306 rushing yards and Fitzgerald threw for 241 to cross the 500-yard mark in total offense for the third time this season.
"We were able to get the tempo going offensively and run the ball," Mullen said. "We stayed pretty well balanced. Now we have to get ready; we have a lot of things we have to improve on."
BYU (1-6) intercepted two Fitzgerald passes in the end zone, both by Dayan Ghanwoloku, but could only convert one into points. The Cougars struggled offensively, finishing with 176 total yards and only eight first downs.
"We sustained some drives, but just couldn't finish," BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum said. "That's on us. We have to be able to convert on third and fourth down."
Aeris Williams rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown for the Bulldogs, who had a season-high 35 first downs and averaged 6.5 yards.
"He's a big-time guy on our offense," Fitzgerald said. "He runs the ball hard, and he's always going to get you the extra yard. He's always going to fall forward."
Fitzgerald threw for two touchdowns, and rushed for 103 yards and two scores of 14 and 15 yards.
"It's a good balance between the two of them," Mullen said. "Fitz makes you nervous because he's a bit of a homerun threat when he can get to the outside. Then Aeries is better at hitting you between the tackles. It's a good combo."
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs played well enough against a struggling non-conference opponent to move past the sting of a long September. However, tougher tests loom.
BYU: The Cougars continue to struggle with finding a rhythm on offense, scoring 13 points or less for the fifth time this season. The Cougars are off to their worst start since 1968 and are in serious danger of missing bowl eligibility for the first time since 2004.
"Right now, our backs are against the wall," Mangum said. "We know we have to go on a run and be up to that challenge."
Mississippi State returns to SEC play next Saturday, hosting Kentucky.
BYU embarks on its second cross-country road trip in as many weeks when it plays at East Carolina next Saturday.