TAMPA, Fla. — The No. 18 Mississippi State football team ended the 2018 season Saturday afternoon with a 27-22 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 33rd edition of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Fla.
MSU finishes its season with an 8-5 record, while Iowa ends the season at 9-4.
The Outback Bowl saw two of the nation’s best defenses face off. The Bulldogs complied 342 yards of total offense, 190 on the ground and 152 through the air.
Senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald had a team-high 103 rushing yards on 20 attempts, including the only Bulldog rushing touchdown on the day. He also passed for 152 yards and a touchdown on 14-32 passing. The Hawkeye defense managed to force a crucial late-game interception.
Sophomore running back Kylin Hill added 43 rushing yards on 12 attempts. He also hauled in a one-yard touchdown pass.
The Bulldog defense held Iowa under 200 yards of total offense, including -15 yards rushing yards.
The Bulldogs got out to an early 6-0 lead with a pair of first-quarter field goals by sophomore kicker Jace Christmann from 44 and 42 yards out.
The Hawkeyes then cut MSU’s lead in half with a 44-yard kick from senior kicker Miguel Recinos. Iowa then took the lead off a pair of touchdowns through the air, with junior quarterback Nate Stanley connecting with senior wide receiver Nick Easley and sophomore wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette from 75 yards and 15 yards respectively to give the Hawkeyes a 17-6 lead at the half.
The Bulldogs came out of the locker room and scored a pair of touchdowns within 18 seconds of one another, both off turnovers. Sophomore linebacker Willie Gay Jr. intercepted a pass and returned it to the Iowa 6-yard line, which set up the 1-yard swing pass to Hill.
A few seconds later, senior safety Mark McLaurin recovered a fumble on the kickoff return at the Iowa 33. Fitzgerald then rushed for his 100th career touchdown to give MSU a 19-17 lead.
Iowa would reclaim the lead at 24-19 on an 8-yard touchdown catch by Easley late in the third quarter. A 20-yard kick by Christmann then cut the deficit to 24-22. A 40-yard kick by Recinos extended the Hawkeyes’ lead to 27-22 with 5:51 remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs regained possession with 2:22 left and no timeouts, having to go 68 yards to score the go-ahead touchdown. Fitzgerald led the MSU offense into Hawkeye territory, but the drive ended on an incomplete pass on fourth-down to secure a Hawkeye win.
The Bulldogs open the 2019 season on Aug. 31 against Louisiana in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.