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Records aside, St. Petersburg Bowl is big for Miami, Mississippi State

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Sometimes, to enjoy a bowl game, you have look beyond a team’s record.

Like, for instance, this year’s St. Petersburg Bowl.

Mississippi State is 5-7. Miami (Ohio) is 6-6. Which makes it possible that both teams will leave the field with losing records.

But there are interesting things about both teams. Miami, for instance, started the season 0-6, then went on a six-game winning streak. That’s never been done before.

In October, Mississippi State was 2-5 before getting into a bowl (there not enough bowl-eligible teams).

For Miami, quarterback Gus Ragland helped the turnaround when he returned from a knee injury. In his six-game winning streak, Ragland has 15 touchdown passes and no interceptions.

Miami had a 21-game losing streak that coach Chuck Martin inherited.

“Part of the challenge was taking something that was at the bottom of the ocean and making it special again,” Martin said. “To me, that was very intriguing.

“The Cubs won the World Series. Donald Trump is the President and we became bowl eligible.”

Martin said the key wasn’t a change in direction. It was getting afloat.

“People say ‘You’ve gotta turn this ship around,’” Martin said. “I’d say, ‘No, this ship is at the bottom of the ocean. We actually have to learn how to get it up here, then we have to turn it around.’”

Mississippi State finished with style, too. They beat Ole Miss 55-20, and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald had 367 yards of total offense and five touchdowns. He gained 258 yards rushing and sophomore Aeris Williams had 191. State was the 28th best rushing attack in the nation.

“We’re getting an opportunity to play in a bowl game because of what (we) have all done in the classroom,” MSU coach Dan  Mullen said. “Not just the guys who are here, the guys before over the last couple of years. How we’ve worked, what we’ve been able to do in the classroom for our players. That work has now paid off.”

The game will be played on Dec. 26 at 11 a.m. at Tropicana Field.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit [email protected]

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