As the final time ticked off the clock, tackles were not the only thing the Mississippi State football team missed on.
The No. 17 (Associated Press) Bulldogs failed to improve their record to 8-1 and No. 16 (Associated Press) Texas A&M took a 38-13 victory Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium in a rematch of the 2000 Independence Bowl.
"We as a team played very, very poorly (Saturday)," MSU head coach Dan Mullen said. "That is 100 percent my fault as the head football coach. That all falls on my shoulders. In every phase, we played very poorly. Give (Texas A&M) credit. Their kids played well. They have a good football team. They played hard. That was as bad a performance as I think we've had here in a quite a long time."
The Aggies (7-2, 4-2) got off to a hot start after MSU's first drive stalled.
The Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2) elected to punt. A&M took advantage of it.
Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel kept the drive alive with his legs and arm highlighted by a 24-yard pass to Mike Evans to put the Aggies at the MSU 12-yard line.
Texas A&M capped a 10-play, 73-yard drive with a 1-yard rushing score by Ben Malena with 9:16 to go in the opening quarter to make it 7-0 Aggies.
Several missed tackles by the Bulldogs led to the Texas A&M first score.
"We are going to watch some film (Saturday afternoon)," Mullen said. "Did we have guys in the right position and did we have the right guys in the right position to make plays? We are going to evaluate that as a staff. If guys can't make a play, we have to make sure we put them in a better position to make plays."
On MSU's next drive, it only managed to pick up 11 yards on five plays, which led to a Baker Swedenberg punt.
"We have to come out and execute right from the very beginning," Mullen said. "We didn't execute very well. We executed very poorly on offense. We didn't execute very well on defense. That's your slow start."
The Aggies kept up the fast pace on offense and scored on their second drive. Christine Michael rushed it in from 22 yards out to highlight a nine-play, 79-yard drive to make it 14-0 A&M with 4:02 remaining in the first quarter.
"They did a good job," MSU senior linebacker Cameron Lawrence said. "They did exactly what we were expecting. They came out with the tempo. I don't think that's what hurt us. It comes down to execution. We had guys in the right place. Several missed tackles. That is something that is reoccurring. We have to get that fixed."
The Bulldogs were forced to punt again on their third possession.
Manziel and the A&M offense took advantage. Manziel scrambled for a 37-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-10 to make it 21-0 with 11:51 to go in the second quarter.
That was the second score on a third down for the Aggies.
"it is very frustrating," MSU senior defensive back Johnthan Banks said. "As an older guy, leader on this team, I have to keep my poise. (I need to) keep my defense and my team calm."
Jameon Lewis took the next kickoff 39 yards to set up the Bulldog offense with good field position at the MSU 47-yard line.
The Bulldog offense finally found some offense and moved the ball down to the A&M 11-yard line.
MSU then faced a 4th-and-3. MSU elected to go for it, but an Aggie blitz made quarterback Tyler Russell get rid of the ball in a hurry and his pass intended for Arceto Clark sailed high.
"They brought a blitz," Russell said. "The clock was running down, (and) I didn't have time to redirect the protection. I had to get out quick. I couldn't find anybody."
A&M tacked on a 24-yard field goal by Taylor Bertolet to take a 24-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Aggies came out of the locker room with the same offensive intensity. Michael rushed it in from 1 yard out to make it 31-0 with 12:40 remaining in the third quarter.
Mississippi State suffered a three-and-out and was forced to punt again.
The Bulldog defense stepped up on A&M's next drive and forced the only punt of the day.
MSU took advantage and Russell found Chad Bumphis for a 14-yard passing score to make it 31-7 with 8:01 to go in the third quarter.
The touchdown tied Russell with the school recored for most passing scores in a season.
"It means nothing right now," Russell said. "I would have felt better if we would have won the game. I can go out there and throw three picks. As long as we win the game, I'm happy."
Russell then rushed it in from 4 yards out to make it 31-13, after a failed two-point conversion, with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Manziel scored from 8 yards out in the fourth quarter to end the scoring.
"He is a great player," Lawrence said. "He's slippery. It's hard to contain a guy like that. At times, I thought we did a good job of containing, but you let him get out one time and that can be trouble."
MSU gave up 693 yards of total offense, the most given up by a Bulldog defense in a Southeastern Conference game.
Manziel finished 30-of-36 through the air for 311 yards. He also picked up 129 yards on the ground on 21 carries for 440 yards of total offense.
The Aggies also picked up 36 first downs.
MSU had 310 yards of total offense.
Russell was 19-of-30 through the air for 21 yards, a score and an interception. Junior running back LaDarius Perkins had 42 yards rushing on 13 carries.
The Bulldogs go on the road next week when they travel to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers.