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Texas A&M rolls past Mississippi State

Houston Chronicle logo Houston Chronicle 2 days ago Brent Zwerneman

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Texas A&M on Saturday won at Mississippi State for the first time since 2012, and along the way the Aggies continued positioning themselves for a run at a College Football Playoff berth.

The No. 11 Aggies doubled up the Bulldogs 28-14 on Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium, in wiping out a three-game losing streak in Starkville. A&M followed up a 41-38 upset of then-No. 4 Florida at Kyle Field last weekend by overwhelming coach Mike Leach’s first MSU squad.

Leach was 7-3 against A&M while coaching Texas Tech from 2000-09, but none of those A&M teams were coached by Jimbo Fisher. The persistent Aggies on Saturday leaned on running back Isaiah Spiller early in grinding away against the Bulldogs defense, and counted on their own swarming defense to consistently harass MSU quarterback K.J. Costello, who they chased from the game early in the third quarter.

The Aggies (3-1) sacked MSU quarterbacks six times, and Costello appeared so frazzled by midway through the game he occasionally had trouble handling the snap while trying to quickly survey who was preparing to rush him next.

Following a scoreless first quarter, Spiller shoved A&M to a 14-0 lead with two short touchdown runs (three yards and a yard) early in the second quarter, the latter the payoff of a blocked punt by Chris Russell that set A&M up on MSU’s 1-yard line.

Leach’s offenses at Texas Tech and Washington State struck fear in many a foe, but outside of the season opener is so far simply drawing snickers in the SEC. MSU (1-3) toppled reigning national champion LSU 44-34 on Sept. 26, but has since dropped three straight contests to Arkansas, Kentucky and A&M.

The Bulldogs scored their first touchdown on Saturday early in the third quarter on a 60-yard return of a quirky interception that bounced off an A&M receiver and MSU defender before a surprised defensive back Emmanuel Forbes hauled in the popup and took off for the end zone.

That play only seemed to anger the Aggies, who responded with two touchdowns in the same quarter, one on a 51-yard catch and run across the middle by receiver Chase Lane, who outraced the Bulldogs secondary to the end zone, and a 6-yard catch by Ainias Smith following a fake handoff to Spiller.

A&M quarterback Kellen Mond, in serving primarily as a game manager while the Aggies counted on the run, finished 13 of 23 for 139 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Leach replaced Costello with freshman Will Rogers in the third quarter, and Rogers led MSU on an extended touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter – snapping a string of eight consecutive quarters without an offensive touchdown by the Bulldogs (a span of 30 offensive possessions).

Leach and Fisher, the latter who won a national title at Florida State in 2013, met for the first time as head coaches. Fisher is in his third season at A&M and is now 2-1 against MSU. Two years ago in Fisher’s first game in Starkville, the Bulldogs and then-coach Joe Moorhead defeated A&M 28-13.

The Aggies are off next weekend before returning to Kyle Field for a Halloween night game against Arkansas. A&M is ranked higher than any of its remaining opponents, and the Aggies’ two remaining ranked opponents (No. 15 Auburn and No. 18 Tennessee) both lost on Saturday.

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