For the first three quarters, Auburn and Mississippi State struggled in a defensive stalemate. When the offense finally arrived to Starkville in the fourth quarter, it was the Tigers' offense which shined. Auburn scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to pull away from the Bulldogs and end this COVID altered regular season on a high note with a 24-10 road triumph. Freshman Tank Bigsby turned in a career performance in the victory with 192 rushing yards. Bigsby's standout night is the third highest single game rushing performance by a true freshman in Auburn history. Bigsby also finished the regular season with 834 rushing yards which is the second highest total for an Auburn freshman in terms of total rushing yards in a season.
The first half was marred by penalties on both teams and missed opportunities by Auburn. Auburn struck first with a 15 play march in the first quarter capped by an Anders Carlson field goal. The Mississippi State air raid attack struggled to find any rhythm in the first quarter and for most of the game. The Bulldogs did manage to tie the game in the second quarter thanks to a roughing the punter and pass interference penalty on the Tigers. Auburn had great field possession throughout the second quarter, once on a Roger McCreary interception, once on a 47 yard kick return by Eli Stove, and once on a short Bulldogs' punt, but was largely unable to capitalize. The Tigers finally got back on the scoreboard after the aforementioned short punt, coupled with a long run by Tank Bigsby, with an Anders Carlson field goal on the final play of the first half.
The third quarter was largely a repeat of the first two quarters except this time it was the Bulldogs that missed out on their scoring opportunity. The Mississippi State offense put together their best offensive drive of the evening on the first drive after intermission. However, the Auburn defense stood tall on third down and forced a Bulldogs' field goal which was missed. Auburn did pick up a third Carlson field goal in the third quarter after a Smoke Monday interception.
Mississippi State was winning the field possession battle at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Auburn offense still managed to come to life. Starting on their own five yard line, Auburn looked to have gone three and out when Shaun Shivers was stopped well short of the line to gain on a third and seven. However, Gus Malzahn had called a timeout just prior to the snap. On their second try on third and seven, Bo Nix hooked up with Seth Williams for a huge third down conversion. Later in the drive, facing a third and fourteen from the State thirty-two, Nix again found Williams, this time for a touchdown strike. Approaching the half way mark of the fourth quarter, it seemed Auburn had built an insurmountable 13 point lead with the way the defense had been playing. A 65 yard kick return on the ensuing kickoff breathed new life into the Bulldogs' hopes. Will Rogers, Mississippi State's freshman quarterback, quickly took advantage of the short field leading the Bulldogs on a 29 yard march to paydirt. Auburn's offense once again had the answer this time in the form of Bigsby. Bigsby bulled his way down the field all the way to the three yard line, before Nix called his own number on a keeper to push Auburn's lead to 14 after a successful two point conversion. That score proved to be the knockout blow.
Auburn's offense was led by Bigsby and the rushing attack which topped the 200 yard mark as a team for the fifth time this season. Nix also had an efficient outing with his passing and rushing touchdown and avoided the interceptions which have plagued him in other road contests this year. Nix finished with 125 passing yards and 24 rushing yards. Seth Williams led the Tigers with three catches for 57 yards and the touchdown. Both teams struggled throughout the evening to convert third downs as Auburn finished 5/16 and State finished 4/16.
It was a vintage performance by the Auburn defense. The only Bulldog touchdown was set up by the big kick return rather than a big play on offense. Auburn thoroughly grounded Mike Leach's air raid attack limiting the Bulldogs to 240 yards of total offense and a 3.6 yards per play average. The Tigers sacked Rogers six times, picked him off twice, and generally made life miserable for the freshman.
Auburn concludes their regular season with a 6-4 mark and will now look ahead to a potential bowl game.
The Auburn Tigers had a rough start to the season, not to mention the year. A worldwide pandemic has put a damper on the collegiate season as a whole, and to add onto that their star player was forced to sit for 11 games. But with Sharife Cooper finally on the court, what has he brought to the table for the Tigers?