Auburn fell to 2-2 on Saturday in a game that could be classified as a defensive struggle.
Auburn scored all its points via second-half field goals, while Mississippi State scored just three points through the final two quarters but held on for the 17-9 win.
The previous week’s loss to LSU was a performance Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp called “abysmal” for his unit. This week, poor red-zone execution by Auburn’s offense was more to blame.
That did not stop Muschamp from being critical of his defense Sunday night.
“We didn’t do enough to win the game,” Muschamp told reporters on Sunday night.
Auburn may not have won the game, but the defense definitely improved.
The Tigers came into the game allowing 270 rushing yards per game (including 411 to LSU), but Mississippi State gained just 56 on Saturday. Auburn also entered the game allowing third-down conversions 50 percent of the time, but held the Bulldogs to 4-of-12 (33.3 percent).
Muschamp moved defensive back Blake Countess from cornerback to safety and started Tre’ Williams and Justin Garrett at linebacker in place of Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy. Johnathan “Rudy” Ford was also benched.
Freshman Jeremiah Dinson took over for Countess at corner and the changes seemed to help. All three players who were benched ended up subbing into the game and playing well.
The two biggest mistakes came on Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott’s two touchdown passes in the first half. Safety Tray Matthews missed an assignment on the first score, and freshman defensive back Carlton Davis lost a jump ball on Prescott’s second touchdown.
After that, Mississippi State was held to three points, but the second touchdown pass ended up being the decisive score. Despite the loss, Muschamp did notice one improvement.
“I thought we tackled much better,” Muschamp said. Then he added: “We didn’t get results, and that’s the bottom line.”
Auburn’s defense played well enough to win the game, but the team has yet to put together a complete effort on both sides of the ball. The Tigers will likely need to win the remainder of their conference games and get some help to have a chance at winning the division.
“It’s easy to be down, but our mindset is to get better every week,” Garrett told reporters. “All you can do is move forward now.”
Muschamp: "We didn't get the results, and that's the bottom line. This is a bottom-line profession."
— Tom Green (@AUBlog) September 27, 2015