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Mitchell: Hail Mississippi State
Things are looking up for State's Mullen
Things are looking up for State's Mullen
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Sep 8, 2012


If you listened carefully on Saturday afternoon in Starkville, you could faintly hear Joe Cocker serenading Auburn with a throaty rendition of “You can leave your (BCS rings) on.”… Otherwise, everything else was undressed by a State team playing its most complete game in years.


By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

How ‘bout dem apples, Auburn.

Bouncing back from a 2011 game in which Mississippi State felt they outplayed Auburn on the Plains yet failed to finish, this time around State didn’t even let the Tigers get started.

If you listened carefully on Saturday afternoon in Starkville, you could faintly hear Joe Cocker serenading Auburn with a throaty rendition of “You can leave your (BCS rings) on.”… Otherwise, everything else was undressed by a State team playing its most complete game in years.

More impressive than the win itself was just how dominating MSU was in every facet of the game. Other than going 1-10 on third down conversations, State had nearly 400 yards of total offense to Auburn’s 216. The Dawgs’ defense stifled the Tigers’ ground game, holding it to under 100 yards rushing…on 39 carries. Auburn had more penalties, turnovers (five) and lost the time of possession battle.

MSU may not have converted on its two interceptions in the first half (both by the talented Johnthan Banks), but not only did they hold Auburn to just three points and virtually no offense, the Bulldogs were extremely balanced. At the end of the third quarter, State led 21-10 on 54 plays…28 passing & 26 running.

Many eyes were focused on the battle between State’s inexperienced but talented offensive tackles and Auburn’s experienced, fast defensive ends. While State had some false starts, a chop block and allowed some sacks, its tackles settled after halftime and dominated that battle within the game.

In the second half, Auburn was simply unable to pressure State in any facet, and it showed on the scoreboard. Actually, the only area that Auburn outplayed State was in Kickoff Returns, thanks to Ontario McCalebb’s 100 yard touchdown sprint to start of the third quarter, which gave Auburn a short-lived 10-7 lead.

However, that was the Tigers final bright spot of the game. MSU scored touchdowns on three of its next four drives, while stymieing everything Chizik’s offense tried to do in the second half. At one point midway through the third quarter, Auburn’s young quarterback Kiehl Frazier was 2 for 8 passing for 2 yards, with 2 interceptions and zero touchdowns. That’s a lot of twos…which is exactly where his team finished up the day: second.

Kiehl Frazier was bad, but he didn’t get much help from his offensive line all game, nor from his receivers who ran what could charitably be called sloppy routes.

By contrast, State’s Tyler Russell had perhaps the best game of his career. Russell ended the day 20 for 29 passing for 222 yards, 3 touchdowns with zero interceptions. (What is it with good SEC quarterbacks named Tyler (Bray/Wilson)?)

Yes, Auburn is still rebuilding, and doing so with two new coordinators whose schemes must be digested. But don’t underestimate how important this win is for State. They dominated this game and started the SEC with a win for the first time since 1999 (most of those loses coming against LSU). Moreover, under Mullen’s tutelage, the Dawgs have yet to beat a SEC West division team other than Ole Miss.

Auburn had five turnovers, though Frazier’s two fumbles came late in the fourth quarter with the game already decided. However, more troubling for Auburn was that it appeared to simply give up down the stretch, mailing in a fourth quarter that should be textbook viewing for all young players on how not to finish a disappointing loss.

That may be true, but you’re not playing quarterback, coach.

Then again, you have recruited all this “talent” and are doing very little with it. So you’re right – at 0-2 and playing uninspired football, to paraphrase a dead president, the buck does indeed stop with you, Gene.


Russ Mitchell is CFN's lead SEC Columnist. Follow Russ for SEC and CFB analysis @russmitchellcfb

READ MORE: Mitchell: Gig 'em Gators
READ MORE: Mitchell: Arkansas Craters



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