Sean White (above) runs the football for the Tigers. He netted 31 yards on 11 carries in his collegiate debut.
Auburn, Ala.-- Auburn's defense improved, but not enough to cover for their offensive teammates who couldn’t score a touchdown as the Tigers dropped their second consecutive game, a 17-9 SEC football contest vs. Mississippi State.
On four trips into the red zone the Tigers came away with an interception, a missed field goal and two made field goals, a development that Coach Gus Malzahn said was the difference in Saturday night’s contest.
“Our kids played extremely hard,” Malzahn said. “The story of the game is we were in the red zone four times and got six points.”
After seeing his defense get embarrassed at LSU the previous week, Malzahn said the group improved. “The defense played well enough to win the game. They fought and did a good job against a very good quarterback--one of the better players in the entire country with a good offense.
“The kids played their guts out,” Malzahn added. “We had a new quarterback that started tonight and we thought he did a very good job for the very first time he had action. He competed and fought. When we got behind and had to throw it we didn’t protect him great, but he competed and did some good things.”
Despite the major disappointment with a 2-2 record, Malzahn said he believes better days are coming for his team. “We have a lot of things we can build on and we will get better.”
With the loss the Tigers dropped to 0-2 in the SEC and 2-2 overall heading into next week’s home game vs. San Jose State.
On the plus side for the Tigers they out-gained the visitors 389-326 on a night redshirt freshman Sean White made his college debut. The Tigers gained 201 rushing yards on 50 carries while White completed 20-28 passes for 188 yards with one interception.
“I feel like he definitely did an amazing job,” said running Peyton Barber, who produced his third 100-yard rushing game of the season with 137 yards on 27 carries.
Peyton Barber goes airborne vs. the Bulldogs.
“It was very frustrating and it lets us know we have a lot of things to work on,” the sophomore running back said. “I feel like we beat ourselves. I feel we got over-excited once we got down to the red zone.”
The first half statistics were close, but the score wasn’t as the Bulldogs led 14-0 at intermission by cashing in on their two scoring opportunities while the Tigers squandered their chances to score touchdowns.
Auburn drove the length of the field to start the game before White threw a pick in the end zone that set up a 79-yard touchdown drive that took 10 plays. Dak Prescott hit Gabe Myles on a 32-yard pass into the end zone between the Auburn safeties.
The Bulldogs scored again on a 79-yard drive as Prescott hooked up with wide receiver D’Runnya Wilson, who took advantage of his size advantage to catch the touchdown in a one-on-one with Auburn freshman Carlton Davis.
The Tigers had a chance to score just before halftime, but botched the opportunity. On third down at the one-yard a high snap to White resulted in a fumble that Auburn recovered at the nine-yard line. Then Daniel Carlson’s 26-yard field goal kick was wide right.
Halftime Numbers: The Bulldogs kept the ball for 27 plays for 200 yards with 180 through the air while Auburn gained 180 yards on 36 plays with 88 on 26 rushes and 92 as White hit 9-10 passes with the one interception his lone incompletion.
The Tigers finally got on the scoreboard on their first possession of the third quarter after Jonathan Jones recovered a fumble when the Bulldogs tried to convert a fourth and three at the Auburn 40 on a crossing route. The ball was knocked loose by freshmen defensive backs Carlton Davis and Jeremiah Dinson, allowing Jones to recover it at the AU 43.
Auburn moved the ball 44 yards on six plays before settling for a 30-yard field goal with 9:41 on the clock.
After forcing a three-and-out the Tigers got the ball back and drove 54 yards on 12 plays before settling for a 25-yard field goal with 3:06 left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 14-6.
The Bulldogs didn’t waste much time matching that field goal as they hit a 45-yarder with 1:11 in the third quarter for their best drive of the second half.
Auburn’s defense kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard in the final quarter, but Auburn could only manage a 51-yard field goal with 1:07 left. The Tigers tried to follow it with an onside kick, but the ball went out of bounds and the Bulldogs ran out the clock to improve their record to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the SEC.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said, "A lot of talented players on the Auburn team, keeping the out of the end zone for the night was fantastic."
Mullen said, "It was a great football game. Both teams, I thought, played really well--a lot of great defense being played, guys playing hard out there on the field. I thought our defense played unbelievably well."
The Auburn defense allowed 126 total yards in the second half, including 54 in the final period.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Blake Countess, who started ahead of Rudy Ford at safety, led the Tigers in tackles with seven solos and two assists. Ford played in a backup role and made a single solo stop.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Freshman cornerback Carlton Davis, who made his first college start, finished with five solo tackles and one assist while forcing a fumble recovered by Jonathan Jones.
Worth Noting, Part 3: Jeremy Johnson ran onto the field for one play, but did not see action when MSU called timeout and Auburn changed its play on third and one when the bad snap to White thwarted a scoring opportunity.
Injury Update: Sophomore linebacker Tre Williams, who got a start, was injured on the opening possession of the second half and did not return. A teammate said he does not believe it is serious. Running back Roc Thomas was hurt at 7:03 mark of the fourth quarter after catching a short pass and did not return. Malzahn said he isn’t certain how serious the injury is.