By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s main concern entering this past weekend was slowing down Auburn’s rushing attack, which was chewing up 298 yards per game.
The Bulldogs were able to limit Auburn to 120 yards on the ground but it would be the Tigers opportunistic passing game that would ultimately be their demise in a 24-20 defeat in the waning moments.
MSU surrendered 339 yards and two touchdowns through the air to junior Nick Marshall, who was making his first SEC start at quarterback.
“One of our goals going into the game was to not let them run the ball and we accomplished that goal,” said MSU coach Dan Mullen. “Unfortunately, we had 18 missed tackles which netted about 130 yards of offense for them and most of that was in the passing game on quick screens.”
The most detrimental of the miscues came on Auburn’s second drive. Facing third-and-6 from their own 24-yard line, Marshall fumbled the snap, recovered and rolled left out of the pocket finding a wide-open Quan Bray for a 76-yard touchdown to take an 11-0 lead following a two-point conversion.
The bobbled exchange sucked cornerback Justin Cox in momentarily and allowed the busted coverage. Cox attempted to recover and make the tackle but stumbled to the ground allowing Bray smooth sailing down the sideline for the score.
“On the second drive of the game it should’ve been a three-and-out or an interception with the defense we had called,” Mullen said. “It was third-and-forever in a cover-three and (Cox) went the wrong way, fell down and wasn’t there.”
No QB controversy?
Sophomore Dak Prescott has started two games for the Bulldogs since senior Tyler Russell sustained a concussion during the second half against Oklahoma State in week 1.
Prescott has impressed in his two starts completing 27 of 47 passing for 387 yards two touchdowns and no interceptions. He has also rushed for 153 yards and three more scores.
Russell returned to practice on Monday but has yet to be cleared for contact. In the event Russell is released by team doctors, Mullen stated he would go with his “gut instinct” when choosing his starting signal caller.
“I have a tremendous faith in Tyler and he’s won a lot of games for us,” Mullen said. “He’s our starting quarterback but I like having multiple guys as starting quarterbacks because you feel comfortable with guys being in that situation and ready to go play. I’ve never had a quarterback controversy in all my years coaching.”
Junior linebacker Ferlando Bohanna remains out of action this week still suffering from a preseason concussion.
Following a bye week, Mullen hopes to have Bohanna back for MSU’s Oct. 5 game against LSU.
Safeties Dee Arrington (hamstring) and Nickoe Whitley (knee) are both listed as questionable for this week’s game against Troy. Arrington’s injury kept him out of the Auburn game while Whitley was able to play through the pain and make two interceptions.