If you were wondering whether Auburn would return to its old tricks once the stench of the Bryan Harsin era was over, you had to watch only one game to find out that things quickly return to normal on the Plains.
Thirteen-year old me would have been flabbergasted, dumbfounded, and ecstatic to see Carnell Williams on the sideline leading the Auburn Tigers, and his first night as head coach didn’t disappoint even in defeat.
Auburn fell 39-33 to Mississippi State in overtime tonight, but they never gave up, and the team showed much more than they ever gave Bryan Harsin.
The Tigers had a tale of two halves, with MSU building a 24-3 first half lead before the Tigers stormed back in the second half with the type of football that Cadillac Williams grew up on — defense and the run game. Auburn got 177 rushing yards in the second half, while outscoring MSU 27-9 during that period. Tank Bigsby’s 41-yard rushing touchdown got the first lead of the night for the Tigers and was part of his big rushing night, but in true Auburn fashion, things couldn’t be that simple.
This thing threatened to get out of hand quickly for Auburn, as the Tigers got down 24-3 in a hurry. Mississippi State drove down the field on its opening drive to notch a field goal, and followed that up with a touchdown drive. Will Rogers connected with Caleb Ducking on a 13-yard strike to give the Bulldogs a 10-0 lead at the same point that Auburn had just 3 total yards on 6 plays.
Rara Thomas caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Rogers at the start of the second quarter, and Auburn finally got onto the board with a short field goal from Anders Carlson midway through the period. Unfortunately, they gave up a hammer strike as Mississippi State returned the ensuing kickoff for a 92-yard touchdown to build a 24-3 edge. Auburn was able to cut into that lead just a bit with another Carlson field goal with 4:05 remaining until halftime.
After the intermission, Auburn turned the tables like MSU did in Jordan-Hare last year. After a turnover, Robby Ashford scrambled up the middle for 20 yards and the game’s first touchdown for the TIgers to cut the deficit to 24-12.
After a trade of punts, and a particularly bad one from MSU, Auburn had a short field. Ashford once again provided the spark with another keeper up the middle, this time for an 18-yard score to pull the Tigers within a 24-19 hole.
With the defense holding MSU completely at bay in the second half, Auburn’s running game took over, and with 6:36 left in the contest, Tank Bigsby burst through the left side and tiptoed the sideline on the way to a 41-yard touchdown. That gave Auburn its first lead of the night at 25-24, but we had much more left to come.
MSU immediately answered, with Rara Thomas capping a quick drive with a 33-yard scoring strike from Rogers, and the Bulldogs retook the lead at 30-25. Auburn had to answer with a touchdown of its own, and got a 3rd and 9 completion of 24 yards to Ja’Varrius Johnson to keep a crucial drive alive. After that, the Tigers received a holding penalty and then Robby Ashford scrambled down inside the 10-yard line for a first and goal situation. Jarquez Hunter scored from 8 yards out to once again give the Tigers the lead, and Ashford converted the two-point try.
A facemask penalty put MSU at midfield to start their drive, trailing 33-30, They were able to drive into field goal range, and Cadillac Williams used both timeouts to try and ice the kicker Massimo Biscardi, but he made a 44-yard field goal and tied the game with :29 remaining in regulation.
On the kickoff, MSU attempted a squib kick that hit the upback and turned into an accidental onside kick that the Bulldogs recovered. After a Rogers scramble, they were in field goal range, but a false start pushed them back to a 56-yard attempt, which came up way short, and we went to overtime tied at 33.
In the top of the first overtime, Auburn was forced to settle for a field goal from 38 yards away, and Carlson missed it wide right. A pass interference penalty gave MSU a first and goal, and Ja’Quavious Marks scampered into the end zone on the next play to give MSU a 39-33 win.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
We’re not giving it to a singular player, but the second half defense earned this win tonight. They gave the offense a chance and a target to hit, and gave up just 163 yards in the third and fourth quarters.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Tank Bigsby’s 41-yard touchdown to give the Tigers the lead was reminiscent of the kind of thing his head coach would’ve done back in the day, and deserves the hype it got live.
Auburn will return home next Saturday night to take on Texas A&M. Kickoff comes at 6:30 pm CST against a reeling Aggie team.