Rapid Reaction: Mississippi State rallies for improbable win over Auburn
Mississippi State needed a historic, comeback win to beat Auburn. That’s nothing new for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs set a record for the biggest comeback in school history when State came back from 28-3 deficit to beat the Tigers 43-34. It took a little bit of everything for the Bulldogs’ comeback initially then, in a complete reversal of the majority of the first half, State simply took control and dominated for the remainder of the game.
The defense was much more stingy, the offense found its rhythm and State had a timely blocked field goal attempt as Auburn was trying to hold onto their already diminished lead in the third quarter. It also didn’t help that Auburn quarterback Bo Nix was a bit gimpy in the fourth quarter after he took a hit late in the third quarter. Eventually, Mississippi State took the lead when quarterback Will Rogers threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Makai Polk to give State a 28-23 lead. State never looked back.
Most think of historic comebacks as some sort of frantic scramble. This game wasn’t like that at all. The game completely changed momentum in the second half. The win was kept on life support when the Bulldogs scored a touchdown late in the second quarter via a four-yard pass from Rogers to Polk. That was the inauspicious beginning to the comeback. At the time, it just looked like a score that might keep the game respectable.
Mississippi State’s comeback record wasn’t long in the making. The Bulldog’s previous comeback record was set on Sept. 4 when the Bulldogs came back from a 31-14 deficit to Louisiana Tech and won 35-34. That was a 17-point comeback. State overcame a 25-point deficit to beat Auburn.
The most telling play of the total reversal of the game came when Auburn tried to fake a punt with a jump pass on 4th-and-10 at its own 45-yard line. The call wreaked of desperation. State took over possession and ended the drive with a touchdown pass from Rogers to receiver Malik Smith to give the Bulldogs a 42-28 lead.
Rogers finished with 415 yards and 6 TD passes.
Auburn’s last desperation play to keep them in the game came when Tiger running back Tank Bigsby ran for a one-yard touchdown to close the gap to 43-34. For some reason, Auburn’s coaches decided to go for an ensuing two-point conversion which resulted in an interception.
The game certainly looked different earlier. Auburn charged out to an early 28-3 lead. The Tigers couldn’t have played better, especially on offense, in the first half. Auburn never had to punt as they stacked up a seemingly insurmountable lead backed by a ton of momentum.
It would be hard to imagine Auburn quarterback Bo Nix playing any better against State in the first half. His stellar play was without a blemish as Auburn took a commanding 28-10 lead at halftime.
Nix completed his first nine pass attempts for 131 yards. The quick start could have been even better. Nix threw a pass in the flat to Ja’Varrius Johnson, who ran for a 57-yard touchdown. The play, that looked like a forward pass initially, was ruled a lateral and therefore a running play. The ruling didn’t help Nix’s stat line but he didn’t seem deterred.
Nix’s first incomplete pass was a pass that he threw away when Auburn’s pass protection failed. Shortly after, Nix threw a pinpoint pass that was caught for a 15-yard touchdown by reception by Kobe Hudson. Auburn’s first 4 possession of the game all resulted in touchdowns. The drives covered 67, 82, 66 and 68 yards.
That dominant first half, however, didn’t matter. A gimpy Nix struggled in the second half before being replaced by TJ Finley, who fumbled the ball away to Mississippi State and allowed the Bulldogs to run out the clock on an extremely strange comeback.