Melvin Ray was trying to give Auburn a lift against Mississippi State
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Coach Gus Malzahn talked of missed opportunities, of the four trips to the red zone that produced only six points, of a comeback that fell short.
Mississippi State's 17-9 win over Auburn on Saturday night came when a last-ditch onside kick attempt by the Tigers failed with 1:07 remaining, leaving Malzahn disappointed, but also seeing some fight in his team.
"You can see we have a bunch of young guys, inexperienced guys, and we have a chance to grow," Malzahn said. "That's what we're doing. We're going to get better. I promise you that. We'll see what happens.
"We'll turn it around.
"There are a lot of things we're going to build upon. That's what I told our team. They fought their guts out."
The game story is here.
Auburn started two true freshmen in the secondary, changed its defensive starting lineup and played young players through out. The Tigers trailed 14-0 at the half, but the defense kept Auburn in it, showing more gamesmanship than in a 45-21 loss to LSU the week before. The Tigers left the field at 2-2. State improved to 3-1.
"The defense played good enough to win. They fought," Malzahn said. "They did a good job against a very good quarterback, one of the better players in the entire country. Our kids played our guts out."
Auburn started a quarterback who had never taken a college snap in Sean White. Mississippi State started veteran quarterback Dak Prescott. White finished hitting 20-of-28 passes for 188 yards. Prescott hit 29-of-41 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns.
But all Auburn eyes were on White.
"Overall, I thought he did a solid job for his first college experience," Malzahn said. "He did some good things. He made a mistake or two, and we thought he'd make a mistake or two. Anytime you're playing an SEC opponent, and especially in the West, and you've got a guy making his first start, he's going to make some mistakes, and he did. But I think everybody saw he competed. He did some good stuff and he's a competitor."
Daniel Carlson kicked three field goals, but Auburn didn't score on two trips into the red zone, one ending on an interception. Auburn had the edge in total yards — 389 to 326 — and in first downs — 25 to 18. But, Malzahn said, "I think the story of the game was we were in the red zone four times and we got six points."
"The defense gave the offense the ball in the second half numerous times where we needed to respond, and didn't."
Auburn now heads to next Saturday's homecoming game against San Jose State. Malzahn will take this with him: "We did do a lot of things better."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine