Self-Destructive Tigers Can't Handle MSU

Auburn mistakes, both early and late, were too much to overcome against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Starkville, Miss.--After not giving up a point off of a turnover in the first five games, the Auburn Tigers surrendered three touchdowns to Mississippi State following mistakes on Saturday as the Bulldogs led from start to finish in a 38-23 SEC football victory.

Auburn fell to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC while the Bulldogs improved to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the league.

Coach Gus Malzahn’s Tigers turned the ball over five times, including their first two offensive plays of the game as they dropped behind 21-0 less than nine minutes into the opening quarter.

“We started out in a hole,” said Malzahn, who added, “I think a big factor in the game is our red zone offense not being able to score touchdowns. I think we had two field goals in the first half and one miss. That was a big factor in the game.”

Coming into the contest the Tigers were 21-21 on converting red zone trips into the points. They were 4-6 vs. the Bulldogs.

“In the third quarter we would get close and something would happen,” the coach said. “I never felt like we could get that momentum. The bottom line is you have to give Mississippi State credit. They are a very good football team. We knew we were going to have to play well to beat them and we didn’t.”

Despite Auburn’s struggles in the matchup of No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 3 Mississippi State, the Tigers still had hope until the final minutes trailing by 13 points and driving for a potential touchdown. However, an interception at the Auburn three-yard line by Justin Cox ended any hopes of a wild comeback with 2:44 left and the Tigers down to one timeout.

Junior wide receiver Duke Williams said as disappointing as the loss was the Tigers cannot afford to dwell on it. “We have just got to get better in practice and not have offensive pass interference and just get better as a team,” he said. “We learned from this loss, but it is not the end of the world.

“Malzahn will have a plan for us,” Williams added. “We just have to listen to him and get better as a team.”

Senior quarterback Nick Marshall said it was a frustrating game for the Tigers, but added, “Then, again you can’t get frustrated and down on yourself. You just have to go to the next play and keep playing ball.”

For the game the Tigers were out-gained just 469-441. The big factor was that the home team turned more of its forced turnovers into touchdowns. The Bulldogs threw three interceptions and lost a fumble, but Auburn didn’t punish them enough for those mistakes.

Duke Williams caught two touchdown passes.

Auburn’s first three possessions couldn’t have gone much worse. A deflected pass led to an interception to set up a quick 7-0 lead for the home team. De’Runnya Wilson ran through the tackle attempt of Jonathon Mincy for a 34-yard score.

On Auburn’s second offensive touch Williams fumbled the football after a short catch. Four plays later Josh Robinson scored on a one-yard run to make the score 14-0.

On the third possession Roc Thomas fumbled the kickoff return catch. He managed to pick up the ball, but was stopped at the 15. When it looked like the Tigers would get out of the hole with a long pass to Williams, a holding call on Shon Coleman negated the play and the Bulldogs drove 71 yards to stretch the lead to 21-0.

The third score came following a questionable pass interference call in the end zone on Trovon Reed, one of several questionable pass interference calls that went against the visitors. Malzahn wouldn’t comment on those plays after the game, but had plenty to say to the officiating crew during the contest.

With the help of runs by Thomas the Tigers moved into the red zone on the next possession, but for the first time this season failed to score in that situation when Daniel Carlson’s 28-yard field goal was wide left.

After an interception by Johnathan Ford on a punt fake the Tigers took over at MSU 36, but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Carlson on the first play of the second quarter.

Another interception, this one the first of a pair of picks by Jonathon Jones, got the ball back to the Auburn offense after two plays by the Bulldogs.

After two first downs, a 14-yard run by Marshall put the Tigers in business first and goal at the seven, but the Tigers stalled again in the red zone. After Cameron Artis-Payne was stopped for no gain and rushed for two yards, Sammie Coates caught a pass in the end zone, but he stepped out of bounds prior to the reception negating the play. The Tigers settled for a 22-yard field goal with 11:17 left in the second quarter.

The Bulldogs then held the ball for nine plays, moving to the Auburn 13 before turning the ball over again on an another inception by Jones.

After a 12-yard pass to Quan Bray the Tigers stalled and punted the football to Jamoral Graham, who fumbled it on the return attempt allowing Brandon King to recover the ball at the MSU 22.

Following a run by Marshall for 11 yards the Tigers faced a third down and eight at the nine-yard line. Marshall zipped a perfectly thrown pass to Williams near the middle of the end zone as Auburn cut the lead to 21-13 with 5:26 in the half.

With a chance to take the momentum into the second half the Auburn defense wasn’t up to the task as the Bulldogs drove 75 yards on eight plays to pull ahead 28-13 with 3:58 in the second quarter. Prescott burned the Tigers on a third down and 10 call at the 15 as he scored untouched on a run at left tackle.

Halftime Numbers: The Bulldogs held a 314-210 advantage in total offense 182 through the air and 133 on 22 runs. The Tigers ran the ball 25 times for 137 yards and passed for 73 more.

Auburn cut the lead to 28-20 by driving 99-plus yards on their second possession of the third quarter after having a long pass to the MSU two-yard line called back by an offensive pass interference ruling on Coates.

Again on a third down, Marshall looked for Williams and the junior receiver pulled in the touchdown pass on a 16-yard play with 6:09 on the clock.

The Auburn defense responded by forcing a punt and the Tigers took over at their 20-yard line with 4:36 left in the third quarter, but the offense couldn’t put together any more sustained drives as Marshall struggled with his throwing accuracy while playing in the rain. That became a big problem for the Tigers when MSU drove 75 yards on 10 plays to stretch the lead to 31-20 on a chip shot field goal

Auburn then self-destructed when Ricardo Louis lost a fumble on the following kickoff return. The Bulldogs cashed in by moving two plays for a touchdown to pull ahead 38-20 with 11:07 to play. The only points the Tigers could score after that came on a 42-yard field goal with 7:43 to play, but that was too little, too late.

Worth Noting, Part 1: Mississippi State became just the third team in the history of the AP Poll to have three consecutive wins over Top 10 opponents.

Worth Noting, Part 2: The four turnovers were the most for an Auburn team with Malzahn as head coach and the first quarter was the first period this season in which his Tigers did not score.

Worth Noting, Part 3: Malzahn said to expect a larger role for Thomas, the freshman who rushed for 42 yards on six carries. Prescott led all rushers with 121 on 21 carries while Marshall had 100 on 17 carries for the Tigers. Artis-Payne added 70 on 16 carries for Auburn.

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