Auburn (2-2, 0-2 SEC) led Mississippi State (3-1, 1-1) in total yardage (389-326) and time of possession (36:10-23:50), but the Bulldogs led on the scoreboard as they defeated Auburn 17-9 on Saturday.
Auburn leaves with a second conference loss, which likely ends its chances to win the SEC West. Auburn moved the ball well throughout the game, but came away with just six points in four red zone trips.
Mississippi State scored 14 of its 17 points in the first half and used timely defense to secure its third win in four games.
Here is what we learned about Auburn:
Auburn’s defense can stop the run
Coming into this game Auburn was ranked 123rd out of 127 FBS teams in rushing defense, allowing 270 yards per game. The Tiger defense held Mississippi State to 56 rushing yards.
It was a completely different team from last week that allowed LSU to rush for 411 yards. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp benched safety Johnathan Ford, and linebackers Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy to begin the game.
Tre’ Williams and Justin Garrett started at linebacker and defensive back Jeremiah Dinson stepped in at corner, with Blake Countess and Tray Matthews at the safety positions.
The defensive effort was much better than in previous weeks. The renewed energy resulted in just 17 points for Mississippi State, including just three in the second half. Freshman defensive back Carlton Davis also forced a fumble that set up one of Auburn’s three field goals.
The offense, however, could not capitalize on the good defensive showing.
Sean White has a promising future
White made some good plays, but he also made some freshman mistakes. His final line was 20-for-28 passing, 188 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed 11 times for 29 yards.
The interception came in a pivotal moment of the game.
White began the game 4-of-4 on passing attempts to lead Auburn to the Mississippi State 5-yard line. The freshman then threw an interception back across to his body to end the drive.
It was a key moment in the game because Auburn had a chance to gain an early lead. Momentum seemed to be on White’s side when he barely missed throwing an interception two plays earlier on a 22-yard reception by Marcus Davis. Then the drive was halted.
That would be the theme of the night for White and the Auburn offense. It was just the second time in Malzahn’s tenure that Auburn was held below 20 points. Auburn outgained Mississippi State 389-326 and only scored 9 points to show for it.
Despite the loss, Malzahn has a good quarterback going forward. White missed some throws, but aside from the interception he made good decisions. He also appeared to be in good control of the offense throughout the matchup.
If White is able to develop, he showed he has the potential to lead Auburn to victories.
Auburn will play San Jose State next week in Auburn’s Homecoming game. It is the Tigers’ third of four non-conference games.
With two conference losses, Auburn will have to win out and hope for some help to have a chance to climb back into the SEC West conversation.