Duval, Tigers Kick The Dawgs

Auburn, Ala.--Showing plenty of toughness in the second half, the Auburn defense set the stage for a dramatic 16-14 Tiger victory over Mississippi State on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Damon Duval's stunningly strong 47-yard field goal into a stiff wind with 18 seconds left gave the Tigers the victory after the defense got the ball back for the Tigers with 4:23 left to play.

With redshirt freshman quarterback Jason Campbell calling audibles on every play of the drive, the Tigers ran the ball seven straight times to move from their own 40 to the Mississippi State 30.

Casinious Moore, who suffered a mild concussion in the third quarter after a huge first half performance, answered the bell with the game on the line on the do-or-die drive. He rumbled for four yards on the first play. Then he got seven. On a first down he danced for four more. He followed that with nine yards before being stopped for a two-yard loss.

With Ronnie Brown struggling with three injuries, true freshman Carnell "Cadillac" Williams got the call and ran for five yards and then three. That left a fourth down situation and brought Duval into the game. The junior had made field goals of 30 and 19 yards earlier in the night, but had missed a 56-yarder with the stiff wind in his favor.

However, just like the Tigers do it to end practice many days when he is called upon to hit a 57-yard field goal, Duval calmly nailed the 47-yarder that, amazingly, cleared the crossbar with 20 yards to spare, landing deep in the north end zone stands.

Duval's deep kickoff into the wind forced the Bulldogs to start at their own 24 yards line and two plays later, as time expired, Roderick Hood intercepted a desperation pass as a capacity crowd of 86,063 roared its approval and then let out a collective sigh of relief.

The victory improved Auburn's record to 3-0 in the SEC, keeping the Tigers at the top of the division. Auburn is 4-1 overall. The Bulldogs, faced with a do-or-die game for their chances in the SEC West, slipped to 1-3 overall and 0-3 in the league despite being one of the favorites to take the SEC West crown won by Auburn last year.

Senior offensive guard Hart McGarry shows some emotion after the game by waving an AU flag.

An emotional Tommy Tuberville said, "I normally don't put a lot of stock in one game making a season or overshadowing any other wins, but the way we won tonight, the way we won to go to 3-0 and the way our players played and came from behind. We struggled in some areas, but the way we kept our patience--and I told them at halftime patience would win this game--and our poise was about as big as we have had since I have been here. And, we have won some games. I am proud for the players. I am proud for the seniors."

Tuberville added, "I am so proud for this team because we are struggling on offense. On defense we are getting better." Auburn managed just 293 yards of total offense with 214 on the ground. Moore personally gained 160 on 20 carries. The losers had 285 yards with 176 coming through he air.

Defensive coordinator John Lovett said he was pleased with his group's efforts except for a lack of pass rush and some busted assignments by several young players. "This is definitely something we can build on," he says. "We have got to get the defensive line guys healthy." Both starting tackles saw only limited action. DeMarco McNeil was battling the flu and Spencer Johnson was bothered by an injury to his ribs. Dexter Murphy and Marcus White started at the tackle spots.

The Tigers also lost two starters in the first half to injuries. Linebacker Tavarreus Pounds suffered a bruised leg and cornerback Travaris Robinson hurt his knee on a night when backup cornerback Horace Willis couldn't play due to a hamstring problem. "We made the decision before the game that we needed to hold Horace out to get him well," Lovett said.

Lovett said having depth helped. "We played them all," he said. "We told the kids early in the week to get ready because everybody was going to play. By the fifth series we had played everybody. Last week in the second half we got tired and we made an effort to make sure that would not happen to us again."

After driving into Bulldog territory on the opening possession and failing to convert a fourth and one at the MSU 46, Auburn scored on its second possession.

A 12-yard pass to fullback Brandon Johnson started the three-play, 73-yard scoring drive. Casinious Moore then picked up 11 yards at right tackle with some good footwork. On the next play the sophomore went distance, using good blocks by the left side of the line. After breaking one tackle past the line of scrimmage, Moore wasn't touched until he reached the goal line and he fought his way into the end zone.

That was it for the Auburn offense in the first half. Mississippi State scored a pair of field goals from 42 and 22 yards to cut the gap to 7-6 at halftime. The second one came after the Tigers stopped a late threat by MSU following a missed 56-yard field goal by Damon Duval with 2:29 left. The Bulldogs moved to a first and goal at the AU seven before the Tigers stiffened and limited the visitors to a field goal with seven seconds left in the second quarter.

State had a chance to take the lead by driving the second half kickoff from its own 41 to the Auburn one where the Tigers held on third and fourth down with tackles by Carlos Rogers and Alton Moore on running plays. The Tigers got off the goal line with the help of a facemask penalty that negated a blocked punt, but the Bulldogs scored anyway after an unusual call. After Jason Campbell was sacked on third down to bring up a fourth and 16, punter Duval ran from punt formation for 14 yards around right end, two shy of a first down, and State took over at the AU 46.

Two plays later the Bulldogs moved ahead on a 37-yard pass from Wayne Madkin to Justin Jenkins. The same duo combined on a two-point conversion pass to make the score 14-7 Bulldogs with 2:25 left in the third quarter.

The Tigers scored three points on their next possession, moving 56 yards on 10 plays. Duval's 30-yard field goal cut the Mississippi State lead to 14-10 with 13:29 left in the fourth quarter.

The AU defense came up with a big stand, forcing the the Bulldogs to punt after three plays. AU's kicking team came up with a blocked punt as Tim Carter blocked the punt and Donnay Young scooped up the loose ball and returned it to the State 10.

The AU offense couldn't take advantage of the big play. Three Campbell runs left the Tigers two yards shy of a touchdown and AU settled for a 19-yard field goal with 9:44 left in the game.

The Tiger defense came up big again, forcing the Bulldogs to punt after three plays. AU started at its own 18 with 7:57 to play after a 49-yard punt and one-yard return by Hood. Tim Carter was blasted on a 25-yard catch to move the ball to the Tiger 43, but the Tigers had to punt back to State.

The Bulldogs couldn't move as Karlos Dansby sacked Madkin on third down. The Tigers took over on their own 39 after a 36-yard punt and began their eight-play, 30-yard drive to set up the winning field goal.

The Tigers return to action next Saturday as the unbeaten Florida Gators come to Jordan-Hare Stadium for a 6:45 p.m. kickoff.

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