By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn gets to hold on to its crown a little longer thanks to the kind of all-around effort that was absent the previous week.
A lot of people were down on the Tigers following a 42-38 comeback win against Utah State to open the season. They entered Saturday’s game against No. 16 Mississippi State unranked and a six-point underdog.
But the running game revived itself to the tune of 235 yards, and many of those yards came behind a shuffled right side of the offensive line. Big plays were made in the passing game and on kick returns.
The defense bowed up and, despite yielding 531 yards, made MSU grind it out more than it had to in a 59-14 win at Memphis the week before. The Bulldogs ran 97 plays to Auburn’s 59.
“Are we a great football team right now? No. Not even close,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “But the identity of the team is starting to form week by week because they will fight.”
Auburn might not repeat as BCS champion, but it has won 17 consecutive games and for two straight weeks has made the big plays at game’s end.
Asked if the best team won today, MSU head coach Dan Mullen paused a moment and then said, “The team that played the best won today.”
Banks catching up
Junior cornerback Johnthan Banks jumped in front of a Barrett Trotter pass in the second quarter and took it 27 yards for a touchdown, the third pick-six of his career, which ties him with teammate Corey Broomfield for first place nationally among active players.
Banks’ eighth career interception gave MSU a 21-14 lead.
“That’s something we rehearse all the time,” Broomfield said. “I’m happy for him. So he’s caught up to me now.”
MSU has to prepare quickly for Thursday’s home opener against LSU. To help ease the compressed schedule, State’s coaches flew back to Starkville on Saturday evening – the team took buses – to begin breaking down film. That’s normally Sunday morning work.
Also, athletics director Scott Stricklin said that MSU was fine with playing Thursday because ESPN agreed to make the Auburn game an 11:21 a.m. kickoff. The game was televised by the SEC Network, which is controlled by ESPN.
Thursday’s game with LSU airs on ESPN at 7 p.m.
It’ll be tough, but the Bulldogs expect to put this loss behind them and be ready for another group of Tigers.
Leading MSU 34-27, Auburn drove 92 yards in 10 plays, getting a big fourth-down conversion run from tailback Michael Dyer. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen caught a 10-yard touchdown pass with 14:03 to play in the fourth quarter.
The last play of the game. MSU quarterback Chris Relf ran left from the 2-yard line and was stuffed by cornerback Ryan Smith.
10 – That’s how many penalties MSU had, for 75 yards.
“I didn’t have our team ready to go enough for that final inch.” – MSU coach Dan Mullen
Mullen had no updates on the injuries to offensive linemen James Carmon and Quentin Saulsberry. … Four of the five players suspended for the Memphis game dressed out, and three played, including starting defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who had 1.5 tackles-for-loss. … Tailback Vick Ballard not only led MSU in rushing (135 yards), he led in receiving (64 yards).