COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Jaylen Henderson accounted for four touchdowns in his first career start and Shemar Stewart returned a fumble for a score to lead Texas A&M to a 51-10 rout of Mississippi State Saturday night.
“Jaylen was outstanding in the game,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I thought he had great poise… just played a really good football game.”
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The victory makes Texas A&M (6-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) bowl eligible after failing to qualify in last year’s 5-7 season.
Henderson threw for 150 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 60 yards and two more scores with Max Johnson out with a rib injury. Henderson, a transfer from Fresno State, is the third starting quarterback this year for the Aggies, who lost Conner Weigman to a season-ending foot injury after four games.
Fisher said he watched Henderson before the game and that he was very calm.
“There was a little bit of jitters,” Henderson said. “But I was very confident in the scheme that we had. The team did a great job of preparing.”
Henderson connected with Ainias Smith on a 19-yard TD reception to extend the lead to 27-10 with five minutes left in the second quarter. Henderson made it 34-10 with an 11-yard touchdown run just before halftime.
“I always bet on myself and so when the opportunity came I couldn’t buckle,” he said.
Jarred Kerr sacked Mike Wright early in the third quarter and forced a fumble. Stewart, a 6-foot-6, 285-pound defensive end, scooped it up and escaped one would-be tackler before rumbling 43 yards for the touchdown to make it 41-10.
Mississippi State (4-6, 1-6) gave true freshman Chris Parson his first career start in their fourth game since quarterback Will Rogers injured his non-throwing shoulder. But they went back to Wright, who started the last three games, early in the second after Parson threw two interceptions.
Parson re-entered the game on the ninth play of the drive after Wright’s fumble and Tyreek Chappell intercepted him in the end zone. He threw for 36 yards and Wright had 68 yards. The team’s only touchdown came on a kick return on the opening kickoff.
It’s the third straight loss for the Bulldogs, who’ll have to win their final two games to become bowl eligible for a 14th straight season.
Coach Zach Arnett was asked what he would say to frustrated fans.
“They should be frustrated,” he said. “Our job is to put a product on the field that the fans are excited about and proud of. Right now, we need to do everything better. We need to play better. We need to coach better. Ain’t no denying that.”
Mississippi State jumped out to an early lead when Zavion Thomas returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.
Texas A&M evened the score when Henderson scored on a 22-yard run on A&M’s first possession.
“His legs create a whole different dimension,” Fisher said. “His legs were huge in the game.”
Deuce Harmon intercepted Parson on Mississippi State’s next drive, but the Aggies couldn’t take advantage of the turnover and punted.
A 1-yard TD run by Amari Daniels with about 2 ½ minutes left in the first quarter put Texas A&M on top 14-7. Parson was intercepted again on the next drive when his pass was deflected by Chappell and picked off by Jacoby Mathews.
A 33-yard field goal by Randy Bond on the last play of the first quarter extended the lead to 17-7.
Bond added a 52-yard field goal that made it 20-7 early in the second.
Mississippi State cut the lead to 20-10 on a 35-yard field goal by Kyle Ferrie about seven minutes before halftime.
Mississippi State: Parson and Wright both looked overmatched against the Aggies and the Bulldogs must hope that Rogers can return soon to stabilize the position. Arnett said after the game that he was optimistic that Rogers would be back next week.
Texas A&M: Henderson filled in nicely Saturday and the Aggies should feel confident moving forward if Johnson remains out and he’s leading the offense for the rest of the season.
Mississippi State: Host Southern Miss next Saturday.
Texas A&M: Host Abilene Christian next Saturday.