Mississippi State took the lead over Auburn early in the fourth quarter and didn't relinquish it until 10 seconds remaining as they fell on the plains, 24-20. The Bulldogs start 0-1 in conference play and now face an uphill battle to bowl eligibility.
Dak Prescott had a career game for the second week in a row as Tyler Russell sat out again. Prescott became the first MSU quarterback since Chris Relf against Arkansas in 2010 to run 100 yards and pass for 200 as he threw for 213 on 15-28 and rushed 22 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns (all career highs).
Auburn started the opening possession quickly from their own 25 and drove the ball all the way down to the MSU 15 facing only one third down. MSU got a break as Nick Marshall fumbled the snap, threw an incompletion and then was sacked on third down by Benardrick McKinney and A.J. Jefferson. The stop was big for MSU who allowed Auburn to march right down the field but the Tigers settled for a field goal and took the early 3-0 lead with 10:53 remaining in the first.
The Bulldogs answered with a strong drive from Prescott on the ground and through the air and would get the ball down to the Auburn 18. Prescott completed his first three passes for 26 yards and rushed four times for 26 as well. But he would throw two incompletions in a row and State was forced to kick a field goal that Devon Bell sent wide right and gave the ball back to the Tigers at their own 20.
MSU forced a quick third down and Marshall fumbled the snap again. He picked the snap up though and found a wide open Quan Bray on the sideline as corner Justin Cox fell to the ground. AU took it 76 yards for a touchdown and converted the two-point conversion for an 11-0 lead with 4:54 remaining in the first.
MSU showed that they wanted to stay in the game with a quick 61-yard pass to R. Johnson as he snuck behind the defense followed by a beautiful reverse by Jameon Lewis to get the ball in the endzone from 14-yards out. MSU missed their two point conversion and the score was 11-6 Auburn with 4:09 left in the first quarter.
Auburn came right back out and dominated the MSU defense making defenders miss routine tackles. The Bulldogs would start to get after it defensively with two tremendous tackles for loss from Denico Autry and Deontae Skinner and got a stop inside the two yard line. For Skinner, it was his first career sack and the second of the game for MSU who had just one the previous two games. AU took the field goal and a 14-6 lead with 13:36 remaining in the first half.
Both teams seemed to just about everything similarly. MSU and Auburn both had their first punts of the game in succession. MSU took over after their defensive three and out and started at their own 21. State would march all the way down the field with a couple of nice pass plays by Prescott and would end the drive with a five yard touchdown on third down and MSU closed the lead to 14-13 with 5:02 left in the half.
MSU forced back-to-back three and outs after the stop on the next AU possession and started again from their own 21. They would stall at their own 35 and punted to Auburn with 28 seconds remaining in the half. MSU forced Marshall into two hail mary throws, the second an interception by Nickoe Whitley the 11th of his career. MSU went to the locker room trailing 14-13.
In the first half, MSU's defense made big adjustments giving up just 18 yards in the second quarter after 199 in the first. The Bulldogs converted 5-8 third downs after converting 5 the entire game against Alcorn last week. Auburn had no answer for Prescott in the opening stanza as he passed for 152 yards on 9-17 and rushed for 50 on eight carries and a touchdown. 50 yards was already his career high by halftime.
Prescott continued his assault passing on second down for 20 yards to Lewis. He then broke up the middle for a big 47-yard gain, followed by an eight yard run and three yard touchdown run. He went over 100 yards for the first time in his career and MSU took the 20-14 lead, their first of the game, with 12:38 left in the third.
AU would answer with points on their ensuing drive thanks to a strange play. Marshall threw a pass into the hands of Taveze Calhoun who bounced the ball right back to Marshall who would reel off a 37 yard run. The Tigers stalled and hit a 47-yard field goal behind the legs of Cody Parkey to get within three at 20-17 with 9:53 left in the third.
After a punt by MSU, AU had a slow developing drive end around midfield when defensive end Preston Smith delivered a hit after a first down catch and caused a fumble. The Bulldogs recovered at the Auburn 48 and started their drive. They would stall and go three and out forcing another punt.
Coming into the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs went three and out deep in their own territory and punted the football for the third-consecutive time. On the first offensive play for Marshall, he saw the ball tipped into the air and caught for the second interception of the day by Whitley. It was Whitley's 12th interception of his career tying him with Izell McGill and Derek Pegues and putting him just four away from tying the all-time record.
MSU converted a fourth down and two but that's all they could do offensively and punted the ball inside the five yard line. Auburn came right back out with a quick strike for 34 yards from Marshall to Coats. The MSU defense would hold around midfield and start at their own 25 after the touchback on the punt.
MSU ran off a lot of the clock and converted a big fourth down in their own territory but saw the drive stall and punted it to Auburn at their own 12. Bulldog fans then sat and watched their hearts ripped from their chest for the second-time in a row at Auburn. Marshall drove the ball all the way down the field using short routes and the sideline to conserve time. In the end, Marshall would make a strike to the endzone on second down with 10 seconds left from the 11 yard line where he found wide receiver C.J. Uzomah for six points, the first touchdown by the Tigers since the first quarter. Jordan-Hare exploded and it would be the final draw of breath for MSU who would fall, 24-20.
MSU had a great game from Prescott but also turned the ball over 0 times while getting three turnovers themselves converting none of them to points. MSU outrushed Auburn 202-120 stopping the vaunted rushing attack of the Tigers but Auburn got their yardage through the air putting up 339 behind the arm of Marshall. The final tally was Auburn 459 and MSU 415 with the dreaded 88 yards doing the trick for the Tigers.
State was led in receiving by Robert Johnson with a career high 84 yards on four catches. Morrow pulled in four catches as well for 40 yards and Lewis 3 for 62. LaDarius Perkins returned to carry it only eight times for 39 yards.
Defensively, MSU got nine tackles from Benardrick McKinney, three sacks by three different players and a total of four for a loss and two interceptions from Whitley.