Anthony Dixon, who carried the ball 29 times for 103 yards, ran the ball on the first six plays of State's game-winning possession. Playing for a field goal down 14-13, the Bulldogs had the ball third and 12 at the Auburn 25.
"We were in quarters coverage," defensive coordinator Will Muschamp explains. "We got up field and we didn't play the draw set up front. Their tight end got on a linebacker and blocked him and they sprung out. That's all it was. We should have played the draw set better up front."
Bulldog quarterbacks Michael Henig, Wesley Carroll and Josh Riddell were just 5-18 passing for 41 yards for the game, so a draw to set up a field goal was the obvious call. However, Auburn's defense didn't make a play on the ball.
"On the sideline Coach Muschamp told us to expect the draw," says cornerback Jerraud Powers. "We just didn't do a good enough job of stopping the run on defense. I'm pretty sure we're going to get that corrected first thing tomorrow. We were expecting it, but they just made plays and we didn't."
Arguably Auburn's top playmaker on defense, Quentin Groves, says his speed off the corner became a liability for the Tigers trying to make something out of nothing.
"I got caught up the field a couple of times trying to play the pass and they ran right underneath me," he explains. "I take a lot of blame for some of the big plays that happened. The third and (12), the draw play that they got down to go set up the score, that was my fault. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. We just have to come back and get better."
Christian Ducre carried it 18 yards to the Tigers' seven-yard line, but Auburn still had a chance to get off the field only giving up a field goal and limiting the damage to a 16-14 deficit. After Dixon and Ducre were stuffed on first and second, State was faced with another third down, this time from the five. And the play call? Another draw, this time for a Ducre touchdown.
"You've got to get off on third down," Powers says. "We call that the money down. Once again the game came down to who was going to make plays. My hat goes off to Mississippi State. They came in making plays and we didn't. We've got to do a better job of that."
Not keeping the Bulldogs out of the end zone ended up being the difference in the ball game as Brandon Cox led Auburn back down the field on Auburn's possession before turning it over on down at the MSU nine-yard line.
As a team, Mississippi State ran the ball 43 times for 172 yards and it was 7/16 on third-down conversions.