Sept. 9, 2006
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STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi State stymied Auburn star Kenny Irons. The rest of the Tigers had their way with the Bulldogs.
The Tigers (2-0, 1-0) won for the 18th time in the last 19 Southeastern Conference games, despite getting only 69 yards rushing in 21 carries from Irons. The SEC's leading returning rusher had a streak of seven consecutive 100-yard games snapped.
"We kept a close eye on him all day and I feel like we held him like we should," Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said.
"(But) Auburn constantly receives good field position throughout the game, which kills our defense. Poor field position puts our defense in a real bad spot."
The Tigers are now an SEC-best 37-12 since 2000 and face No. 8 LSU next weekend in an early season Western Division showdown.
With the Bulldogs (0-2, 0-2) focusing on Irons, the fullback Lester took advantage with 40 yards on five carries. And Mississippi State's mistakes left the Bulldogs defense vulnerable to Auburn's other weapons.
"The first SEC road game is always difficult," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "I was glad to see our offense kept getting stronger as the game went along."
Poor special teams play set up the first scores of each half for the Tigers and turnovers also led to points.
Lester's first touchdown, a 2-yard run to the left corner, put Auburn up 14-0 with 11:35 remaining in the first half. The play was set up by Karibi Dede's fumble recovery after Auburn's Sen'Derrick Marks sacked and stripped the ball away from Mississippi State quarterback Tray Rutland at the Bulldogs' 1.
Rutland, making his first career start, was intercepted late in the quarter by David Irons, Kenny's brother, and it led to John Vaughn's career-best 55-yard field goal.
The fourth-longest field goal in school history gave Auburn a 17-0 at halftime.
A Mississippi State facemask penalty on the opening kickoff of the second half helped Auburn pile on the points as the Tigers took over from the Bulldogs 48.
Irons ripped off one of his few long runs, a 17-yarder. Three plays later, Lester broke three tackles against the tiring Bulldogs defense on his way to a 20-yard touchdown run that put Auburn up 24-0.
Croom said he felt his defense did enough to win the game.
"We had one play where we had real poor tackling," Croom said. "But against that football team all day, hey, I can live with that. I really like the way our defense fought the whole game."
Cox began the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gabe McKenzie with 1:07 remaining in the first quarter and finished off his day with a 20-yard pass to Rodgeriqus Smth with 1:45 remaining in the third quarter to put the Tigers up 31-0.
He completed 18-of-27 for 249 yards with no interceptions.
For the second consecutive week, the Bulldogs were essentially held out of their opponents' territory.
Mississippi State has advanced beyond the 50 four times this season. Turnovers accounted for two of those possessions, which resulted in missed field goals. And twice the Bulldogs have had the ball at their opponents' 45, earning that field position once in each loss.
"It felt great," Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves said of the shutout. "We had to be very physical on defense to pull it off. There are not too many times a defense can shut down an SEC-caliber team."
Rutland, a redshirt freshman playing for injured starter Michael Henig, completed 12-of-25 passes for 82 yards.
The Tigers held the Bulldogs to 161 total yards and forced three turnovers. It was their sixth consecutive win over Mississippi State.
"The goal was to build the defense first," Croom said. "That's what you have to do first because you've got no chance if you don't have a defense, absolutely none."