STARKVILLE, Miss -- A year ago, Auburn had a 28-3 lead in the first half against Mississippi State only to see the Bulldogs make a stunning comeback. Saturday’s rematch was playing out the same way in reverse.
Mississippi State built a 24-3 lead in the first half but the Bulldog offense stalled for about two and a half quarters and Auburn had two different leads in the final 5 minutes. Ultimately, the Bulldogs sent the game to overtime on a Massimo Biscardi 44-yard field goal and a 6-yard Jo’Quavious Marks touchdown run walked off the win, 39-33.
“It was good at the end and good at the beginning. The defense, I thought, kept us in it,” Mike Leach said. “Wins are hard no matter who you are and sometimes there are games like that. The toughest teams stick through it, battles and wins.”
The Bulldogs (6-3, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) blew a 24-3 lead and watched as the Tigers (3-6, 1-5) outscored them 27-9 in the second half.
But Mississippi State wound up handing Auburn its fifth consecutive loss, this time under interim coach and former Tigers running back Carnell Williams. The Tigers fired coach Bryan Harsin on Monday, the same day that MSU athletic director John Cohen left his alma mater to run Auburn's department.
“I tip my hat to Mississippi State. Wow, what a game. Those kids fought hard,” Williams said. “You’re not going to win them all, but I’m so proud of my guys. There are so many life lessons that these kids are going to learn.”
Auburn’s Anders Carlson pushed a 38-yard field goal attempt wide right to start overtime. Then the Bulldogs capitalized on freshman J.D. Rhym’s pass interference on a deep ball to set up Marks’ winning score.
Will Rogers broke Dak Prescott’s Bulldogs career passing yards and touchdowns records in the first quarter. But the Bulldogs’ offense was stuck in neutral for most of the rest of the ball game — until it mattered most.
State built a 24-3 lead in the first half only to see the Tigers work their way back into the game in the third quarter with 13 points thanks to a dropped snap on a punt and an interception from Rogers that closed the gap to 24-19.
The Tigers were able to take their first lead of the game with 6:36 left when Tank Bigsby broke off a 41-yard run to take the 25-24 lead. After a Rogers 33-yard pass to RaRa Thomas put MSU up 30-25 with over 3 minutes left, the Tigers scored again in the final minute and took a 33-30 lead.
Biscardi tied the game and the Bulldogs recovered the ball on the ensuing kick after Ben Raybon hit the ball off an Auburn defender. MSU missed the 56-yard field goal and that sent the game to overtime.
Auburn forced three turnovers from Rogers as the quarterback threw an interception and fumbled on two of Auburn’s five sacks.
Mississippi State outgained the Tigers 370-331 almost exclusively with the passing game. Rogers was 42-of-59 passing for 357 yards and three touchdowns with the one interception.
He surpassed Prescott’s school record in touchdowns and now has 73 in his 31 games. He also broke Prescott’s passing yards record and sits with 9,627.
Auburn’s Robby Ashford was 7-of-22 for 70 yards and had 18 carries for 108 yards and two scores.
Tank Bigsby had 13 carries for 94 yards and a score and Jarquez Hunter had 12 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown for Auburn.
The win for the Bulldogs sealed a bowl game appearance for the 13th-straight season which continues what’s a school record streak.
Auburn came into the game with nothing to lose as the Tigers had fired Harsin on Monday. Auburn was energized enough to steal the momentum in the second half, but couldn’t find a way to end its losing skid.
Mississippi State got an early lead in the game and then set things on cruise control. The lack of offensive production until late in the fourth quarter allowed the Tigers to get back in the game.
Mississippi State hosts Georgia next Saturday
Auburn hosts Texas A&M next Saturday