Halftime reactions – Iowa vs. Mississippi State

Pregame Editor Adam Hensley gives his instant reactions at halftime of the 2019 Outback Bowl.


Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

TAMPA, Fla. – Halfway through the Outback Bowl, Iowa leads No. 18 Mississippi State, 17-6. The Hawkeyes have fewer than 100 yards of total offense (97), but have all the momentum heading into halftime. Pregame Editor Adam Hensley gives his observations:

Iowa contained Nick Fitzgerald well.

Heading into the game, all eyes were on Bulldog quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who holds the SEC record for most career rushing yards by a player at his position.

The dual-threat signal caller has 62 yards on the ground at halftime, but he’s been unable to do much with his arm. Fitzgerald is 7-for-17 through two quarters, and he’s been unable to connect with open receivers throughout the game.

Hawkeye defensive end A.J. Epenesa also forced a fumble on Fitzgerald, setting the Iowa offense up with its best starting field position of the day.

Mississippi State’s defense is as good as advertised… at least against the run.

Iowa’s first drive of the game resulted in a three-and-out, losing 12 yards in the process. The Hawkeyes were stopped twice on runs, and then quarterback Nate Stanley found himself swarmed by a crowd of Bulldog defenders for a third-down sack.

In the first quarter alone, Mississippi State held Iowa to -8 yards. Iowa’s total offensive yardage total finally reached the positive at the 12:21 mark in the second quarter.

The Hawkeyes had 10 rushing attempts in the first half, resulting in -16 yards. Iowa’s best work came in the passing attack.

The Hawkeye passing game is clicking.

With the running game nonexistent in the first two quarters, quarterback Nate Stanley and the Iowa passing attack found rhythm.

Nate Stanley connected with receiver Nick Easley for a 75-yard catch and run – Iowa’s first touchdown of the game. It was just the play Iowa needed for some momentum.

A fumble recovery set Iowa up deep in Mississippi State territory, and Stanley capitalized, hitting Ihmir Smith-Marsette for a touchdown.

Other Mississippi State miscues working in Iowa’s favor.

Fitzgerald had a wide-open receiver on the team’s third drive of the game, but his target dropped the ball, which was placed perfectly. Had he caught it, the Bulldogs could have easily been looking at a touchdown.

Later in the game, Fitzgerald heaved a deep ball to his wide-open target Devonta Jason. The pass sailed over his head by more than 5 yards, and the Bulldogs eventually punted a few plays later.

Mississippi State’s early lead could have been more, had Fitzgerald and his receivers connected on those plays.

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