Auburn Outlasts Bulldogs 3-2

Derek Pegues gave State fair starting position with a 38-yard kickoff return, but it was three-and-out for the offense. Auburn did the same as S De'Mon Glanton stopped Rodgeriqus Smith a yard short on a third-down catch. Pegues dropped the Tiger punt and had to scramble for a recovery at the 20-yard line.

Mississippi State made the first move-of-chains as Wesley Carroll hit Aubrey Bell for 14 yards, before State had to kick it away. Blake McAdams got into this one, and got a great roll that went out-of-bounds at the four-yard line. Auburn dug their way out of this hole by going to a hurry-up approach, aided by how far State's defensive substitutes had to jog before the snap. Brad Lester gashed them for 15 yards, and a flanker-reverse by Mario Fannin was saved by LB Dominic Douglas after 12 yards. A big hit by S Keith Fitzhugh helped stop the series and Auburn's punt rolled out at the Bulldog 15-yard line.

Carroll found Co-Eric Riley for a dozen yards, but TE Brandon Henderson ran the wrong way on second down and tackle Derek Sherrod—making his first start—held by the facemask. The Tigers netted one first down as on 4th-and-inches quarterback Todd fell forward and received a generous spotting. The drive ended soon enough but field position was steadily turning against State as on third down Carroll had nobody open, and McAdams' punt ended up on the Tiger 43.

Robert Dunn kept a foot inbounds for a 16-yard gainer and first down on State's side of midfield. It took persistent pressure from DT Cortez McCraney to force a third-down incomplete that was close to a grounding foul. Fortunately this punt rolled into the end zone. Unfortunately, on the first snap from the 20-yard line Dixon was wrenched down and shaken-up.

Auburn got the ball back on their 43-yard line, again, and this time made something of it. On second down CB Tay Bowser let Montez Billings cut inside him for a catch at State's 25-yard line. Lester made a slick cut-in for 11 yards to the Bulldog eleven. The Tigers stepped on their own paws though, with consecutive false-starts, and settled for a 35-yard field goal at 7:38 to break up the shutout.

A facemask on Pegues' return let State start from their 39, but when Ducre's stretch after the catch came up a yard short State punted for a fair-catch at the Tiger ten. With help from rugby-style shoving of the pile Tate muscled for one first down. If a Tiger gunner had been blocked Pegues might have made something of the punt; as it was the ball and tackler arrived simultaneously at State's 35-yard line.

After McRae made 12 yards on a nice out-route Dixon had acres ahead to either angle…but he misread his blocking and ran into the pile. On 3rd-and-9 State took a tick too long for the snap, so it was 14 yards needed to maintain possession and Auburn had every Dog covered. The punt was only good for 21 yards at 1:43.

Lester burst for 11, then Quindarious Carr perfectly mimicked Billings' earlier deed by cutting inside the left cornerback—this time Jasper O'Quinn—for 29 yards to State's 32-yard line. But Lester lost five yards and on a crossing catch Tate went out of bounds at the 25. So the Tigers again kicked for three but this one sailed left for the 3-0 intermission scoreboard. The Bulldog offense had netted just 65 yards compared to the Tigers' 170.

Auburn presented the Bulldogs with quick second-half gift, losing a first-down fumble recovered by Pegues at the 32-yard line. State came out throwing and it resulted in a seven-yard sack the first time. On second down Carroll evaded the rush and unloaded for Riley fighting with cornerback Walter McFadden on the sideline. The trailing official judged it interference before the ball arrived, well out-of-bounds, for a free first down at the 24.

It did no good as McRae bobbled the third-down catch, which would have left him short anyway. And PK Adam Carlson's field goal try had no chance out of a low-snap and hurried hold. Auburn's ensuing series was short and scary as Lester stayed down after countering for six and had to be carted in for examination.

Bowser somewhat avenged his early misplay by getting a piece of the Tiger punt, which died on their 46 yard-line. Again the offense failed to cash in. Ducre was held a yard short on third-and-five; going on 4th-and-1 in a power formation State didn't run but Carroll rolled…and couldn't hook up with Henderson.

Tate slashed ten yards for one first down, then on 3rd-and-8 the Tigers went to their best play again; Billings yet again cut right-to-left and whipped coverage for a 32-yard gainer compounded by a facemask-tackle. It set up first-and-goal at the seven. And this time Auburn failed to capitalize as Tate was stopped on three tries and the chip-shot field goal missed.

State couldn't advance and with the wind McAdams got almost no hang time on his punt, which Dunn returned 20 yards—his only real outburst of the evening--to the MSU 41. The Tigers started backwards with a sack and holding call. But on 3rd-and-15 State only rushed three down-men and dropped eight into coverage…and still Dunn was wide-open at the 26-yard line. This threat too failed thanks to a third-down coverage sack.

If things were tense for three periods, the fourth quarter would become frantic. The Tigers yet again made the post-pattern pay as Todd hit Dunn for 31 yards, but this came back on a hold. A swap of punts went in State's favor as, with the wind, McAdams dropped one on the nose that died on Auburn's three-yard line. The Tigers gambled on throwing their way out and not only failed to complete but got caught holding in the end zone for a safety at 7:05. The free kick out-of-bounds let State start at their 45, too.

Ducre lost a yard on first down which mattered because Riley's third-down catch was only ten yards. With 4th-and-1 at the Tiger 41 and ten ticks on the playclock State took time to talk. The play was a basic in the repertoire and Ducre should have found just enough clearance to reach the stripe even with a missed block. The spot was short at 5:39. But the Tigers gave the ball right back as DT Jessie Bowman stripped Tate, and if WR Jamayel Smith's fingers were a bit longer the Dogs would have been close to the designated 25-yard line limit of field goals.

Instead Croom had 4th-and-15 with most of four minutes left and two timeouts. But the Dogs did not punt. Carroll rolled hard right and fired long into what became a knot of five players; two in maroon and three in white. Though, it was Riley and Aubrey Bell doing more to knock each other off the ball than the defense at 3:40.

And still the Tigers couldn't keep the handle as Todd incredibly was separated from the ball with McCraney recovering at the Bulldog 34-yard line. There was still 2:29 for a drive, but the call was to go deep and Carroll unloaded for McRae streaking down the right sideline. Maybe the breeze hung it just a bit too long; definitely McRae did not come back and battle hard enough. Because McFadden got his hands inside the receiver's, picked the ball, and came down inbounds at the 18-yard line.

There were no more charity chances left, either, as Tate busted a third-down cutback through the tired Dog defense for 39 yards. Three kneeldowns ended the bizarre evening and the first 3-2 final score in Mississippi State history. Though, naturally, not a note anyone in the home locker room could enjoy.

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