This game put the idea that “any win is a good win” to the test. The first half of the contest between Auburn and Mississippi State surely gave many fans flashbacks to the 2008 game between the teams that finished in a 3-2 Tigers victory. Neither team was able to put any semblance of consistent offense together early in the game, and it did not improve much by the time the clock hit all zeros on Saturday night.
Surely the respective defenses deserve credit for frustrating the opposing offenses, but it definitely seemed like much of the struggle to score points was offensive self-sabotage for both the Tigers and the Bulldogs. Between Mississippi State’s freshman quarterback forcing two ill-advised interceptions and Auburn’s insistence on passing the ball even though it was almost completely ineffective (when tailback Tank Bigsby averaged over seven yards per carry), points were few and far between.
Eventually the Auburn offense was able to put together two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to pull away from Mississippi State and secure a 24-10 win on the road.
Take a look below at the three things that sealed a much needed win for the Auburn Tigers:
Anders Carlson splits the uprights
Auburn kicker Anders Carlson has been one of the team’s most consistent and called upon players this season. The junior kicker delivered for the Tigers once again in Starkville, Mississippi. Auburn was unable to score touchdowns on multiple possessions that reached deep into Mississippi State territory in the first half.
Thankfully for the Tigers, Mississippi State was unable to score as well, and Carlson was able to successfully convert each of his three field goal attempts in the game (27, 37 and 45 yards). If Carlson had missed even one of the kicks, especially early in the game, that would have made a rough start for Auburn a potentially disastrous one.
Tank Bigsby shines again
Auburn’s offense has struggled for most of the season, and tonight was no exception. However, just like what we have seen previously, Auburn’s freshman phenom running back Tank Bigsby stole the show again.
Bigsby was the only offensive player able to provide any kind of spark until late in the fourth quarter when quarterback Bo Nix was able to connect with receiver Seth Williams a couple of times for big plays. Had Bigsby not been on the field, it is likely that those big pass plays from Nix to Williams would not have been enough to win the game.
Bigsby has been nursing a hip injury in recent weeks but looked to be close to 100% tonight for the first time in a while, running over, around and through defenders on his way to 192 yards on the ground. The stability that the star tailback provided for the offense through the first three quarters when quite literally nothing else was working is what allowed the team to stay afloat until Nix found Williams for a 32-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Tank Bigsby on The Plains, but I shudder to think what the offense would have looked like this season had he not been in the backfield.
The defense answered the call
Auburn’s defensive performance in the last two games against Alabama and Texas A&M were extremely disappointing. Fair or not, that side of the ball has carried Auburn’s team for the last few years. So, when Alabama hung 42 on the Tigers’ defense (and it easily could have been more), only to be followed up with Texas A&M rushing for more than 300 yards, it was time to see if Auburn’s defense had any fight left.
They answered that question with a resounding “yes.” Mississippi State is not a particularly good offensive football team, and the Tigers’ defense made them look like it. Auburn’s defensive front got more pass rush and pressure tonight on the Bulldogs than in any conference game in recent memory. The defense was able to sack Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers six times and hit him several times more.
Auburn’s ability to make the freshman quarterback uncomfortable also directly led to the two interceptions he threw because of being pressured into bad decisions. The defense arrived in Starkville with the intent to deliver the message that they had not quit on this year and planned on doling out punishment on Bulldog backs and receivers. The Tigers’ defense did just that in a great performance that led to a sixth Auburn win on the year.
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @z_m_shaw