AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Will Rogers threw for 415 yards and six touchdowns, and Mississippi State beat No. 16 Auburn 43-34 on Saturday.
Auburn (6-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) scored touchdowns on its first four possessions and led 28-3 midway through the second quarter. But Mississippi State (6-4, 4-3) rallied, scoring 40 unanswered points behind Rogers’ arm.
“I think the biggest thing is that we didn’t get discouraged by the first half, which should have been easy to do,” Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said. “That first half, I thought we kind of played tentatively and played not to lose. Then we played aggressively. We played faster.”
Rogers completed 44 of 54 passes, connecting with 10 different Bulldogs. Jaden Walley had seven catches for 87 yards, and Jakai Polk finished with 61 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions.
Mississippi State was held to just one field goal on its first three drives. Then Rogers threw for his six touchdowns on the Bulldogs’ next seven drives. He only had three incompletions after the first quarter.
“I felt like we all were just doing a good job,” Rogers said of his second half. “The o-line did a good job of blocking. (Auburn) played a lot of man coverage today, and the receivers were doing a great job of getting off with their routes. It’s kind of crazy to think I completed that many, because some of those were contested. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my receivers.”
Auburn’s offense got off to a strong start behind Bo Nix, who finished with 377 yards passing and two touchdowns. But, as the defense struggled to slow Mississippi State’s passing attack after halftime, the Tigers were held to 158 yards and six points in the second half.
“We’re not going to make excuses,” Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said. “We’ve got to take this and learn from it. … You’ve got to be able to start like we did, and you’ve got to be able to finish much better than we did.”
Mississippi State: Heading into Saturday, the Bulldogs had only lost one game by more than three points all season. The comeback win showed Mississippi State is truly never out of its games, thanks to Leach’s Air Raid offense. It is now bowl-eligible with two home games left in the season.
Auburn: After back-to-back strong performances, Auburn’s defense melted down after the first quarter. Its offense has been inconsistent this season, but such a sudden drop-off for the other side of the ball is a worrying sign with two SEC games remaining.
The win ensured a winning record away from home for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have beaten two ranked opponents on the road, and their only two road losses came by a combined five points.
“We try to keep the routine the same as it is at home,” Leach said. “You just try to focus on the work at hand and the job instead of a bunch of stuff you can’t control.”
The rally from 25 points down for a win was the largest comeback in Mississippi State history. It also marked the biggest blown lead in a loss for Auburn.
Auburn was the highest ranked three-loss team in the country and had a chance to move into the top 15 with a win. However, a home collapse against an unranked team likely will send the Tigers tumbling down the poll.
Mississippi State returns home next Saturday to host Tennessee State.
Auburn goes on the road to face South Carolina next Saturday night.