ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A pair of blocked kicks, a field goal and two touchdown runs from Richmond Hill High School alum Nick Fitzgerald led Mississippi State to a 17-16 victory over Miami of Ohio on Monday in the 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl.
With some last-second theatrics, State’s Nelson Adams blocked Miami’s potential game-winning field goal attempt with five seconds left to lift MSU to the win.
It was MSU’s second block of the game, the Bulldogs’ Johnathan Calvin also knocking down a Miami extra point attempt early in the game that would ultimately provide the one-point difference in State’s triumph.
A sophomore quarterback, Fitzgerald was named MVP of the game after totaling 268 yards and two touchdowns.
He completed 13 of 26 passes for 126 yards and tied Anthony Dixon’s program record with his eighth 100-yard rushing game of the year, running for a total of 142 yards and two touchdowns.
After trailing 9-0 in the second quarter, MSU’s offense began to pick up near the end of the first half, scoring on a 2-yard keeper by Fitzgerald with 22 seconds left before the intermission.
Following a 44-yard touchdown run by Fitzgerald and an interception by sophomore cornerback Jamoral Graham in the third quarter, junior place kicker Westin Graves gave MSU its first lead of the game in the fourth quarter, hitting a 36-yard field goal to put the Bulldogs up 17-16.
The Bulldogs were paced defensively by senior linebacker Richie Brown with nine tackles, in addition to a forced fumble. State’s defense forced two turnovers over the course of the game. The victory capped the 2016 season for Mississippi State as the Bulldogs look ahead to a promising 2017 campaign after a record seventh-straight bowl game under head coach Dan Mullen.
MSU improved to 12-8 all-time in bowl games, 5-2 under Mullen.
Mississippi State will open the 2017 season on Sept. 2, hosting Charleston Southern at Davis Wade Stadium.