Blocked Field Goal Determines St. Pete Bowl
The 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl got off to a quick start when Miami returned the opening kickoff 40-yards to set a new bowl record. From their Miami QB Gus Ragland kept the RedHawks moving downfield with his aerial assault going 5 of 6 on the opening drive. Miami was finally stopped at the 1-yard line and had to settle for an early field goal.
Once Mississippi State received the ball they were not able to get much going and were forced to punt after picking up just one first down. Miami was also forced to punt after just 1 first down on their second possession. The Bulldogs finally turned to their ground game on their next possession but were only able to manage one first down before punting it away again.
Miami had something going on their next possession as running back Maurice Thomas was able to juke his way through numerous defenders and keep Miami marching. The RedHawks almost stalled out at the Mississippi State 35-yard line, but were able to convert a 4th and 2 on a QB keeper to end the first quarter.
Things started to get interesting in the 2nd, as Miami’s Rokeem Williams fumbled the ball after catching it over the middle around the 15-yard line. Mississippi State then recovered the ball ending a promising drive for Miami. The Bulldogs however went 3 and out and quickly gave the ball right back to Miami.
Miami QB Gus Ragland showed his toughness on the RedHawks next drive by scrambling for 20 yards, where he initiated contacted with a defensive back that he gave a good ride. Ragland did it again on a key 3rd down in which he plowed his way forward for 5 yards and another first down. Ragland then fired a bullet to James Gardner over the middle which set up a first and goal from the 9-yard line. Ragland then found Gardner once again for a 6-yard touchdown in the corner of the endzone, to give Miami a 9-0 lead. The extra point was then blocked by Mississippi State.
On the ensuing kickoff the Bulldogs Brandon Halloway returned the ball 37-yards to around midfield. Mississipi State was finally able to move the ball before the drive stalled out at the 34-yard line. The Bulldogs went for it on 4th down, but they ended up dropping their 2nd key pass in the redzone.
Miami then went 3 and out on their next possession. Mississippi meanwhile was able to reach the redzone on a 20 yard pass to Aeris WIllimas. From there the Bulldogs were able to get on the scoreboard when QB Nick Fitzgerald lunged in from the 2-yard line to make it 9-7 with 22 seconds left in the first half. The 16 points scored sets a new bowl record for the fewest in the bowls 9-year history.
Coming out of the half the Bulldogs punted on their first possession. Once Miami took over QB Gus Ragland found Ryan Smith for a 21 yard gain up the middle. Miami kept moving on an 11-yard carry from Alonso Smith to the Mississippi State 45. Another pass to Smith moved Miami to the 28-yard line. Ragland then found James Gardner on the sidelines for a 20-yard completion to the 3-yard line. On the very next play Ragland tossed it to a wide open Smith in the endzone, to give the RedHawks a 16-7 lead.
The Bulldogs responded in a big way as QB Nick Fitzgerald raced down the sidelines for a 44-yard touchdown run to make the score 16-14. The touchdown run was the 3rd longest in bowl history, and the longest by any quarterback.
Miami was able to make its way down the field once again thanks to some nice throws from Ragland. The Redhawks made it to the Bulldogs 27 on a 20-yard pass to Jared Murphy as the 3rd quarter came to a close.
Mississippi State then opened the 4th by intercepting Gus Ragland at the 9-yard line. The Bulldogs wasted little time marching down the field and used a 26-yard run from Fritzgerald to get deep into Miami territory. An extra 15 yards on a penalty gave Mississippi State a first down on the 24-yard line. The Bulldogs however had to settle for a 36-yard field goal, which gave them a 17-16 lead, their first of the day.
The RedHawks responded by driving to Mississippi States 33, but turned the ball over on downs when a Ragland pass fell incomplete with 7 minutes left to play in the game. At this point Mississippi State is just looking to kill some clock and not turn the ball over. The Bulldogs drove to the Miami 22, but turned it over on downs instead of kicking another field goal.
With a little over 3 minutes to play the RedHawks began marching down the field with their run game, using up some valuable time on the clock. Finally, Miami went to the air when Ragland found James Gardner for a 23-yard gain to the Mississippi 17-yard line. After losing a few yards Miami attempted a 37-yard field goal, only to have it blocked by Mississippi State’s Nelson Adams. The Bulldogs then took one final kneel down as they walked away with the 17-16 victory in the 2016 Saint Petersburg Bowl.