Gus Malzahn: “I Just Wish We Would Have Capitalized”


Oct 11, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn reacts following a Mississippi State Bulldogs touchdown during the first quarter at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn said he wanted his team to start fast in Saturday’s SEC West megashowdown with Mississippi State. Unfortunately for Malzahn and the Tigers, the start was anything but fast and the team fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter.

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The first two offensive plays the Tigers ran resulted in turnovers. A tipped Nick Marshall pass was intercepted following a Mississippi State three-and-out. After the Bulldogs scored quickly, Marshall’s second pass was completed, but receiver Duke Williams lost the football, and State was back in the end zone in no time. By the middle of the quarter, the Tigers were staring a three-touchdown deficit in the face. And it didn’t get much better from there.

Coming into Saturday’s game, the Auburn offense was a perfect 21-for-21 scoring points in the red zone. After the third Bulldogs’ touchdown, the offense finally got going and drove 67 yards to the Mississippi State 11-yard line. Yet, the drive stalled and the usually sure-footed Daniel Carlson missed a 28-yard field goal in the first quarter.

However, it wasn’t the slow start that doomed the Tigers in the 38-23 loss. It didn’t help, of course, but it was a trio of missed opportunities that did the trick and set the tone for the upset.

Auburn saw it’s first glimpse of good fortune when Mississippi State faked a punt deep in their own territory, which was intercepted by Johnathan Ford. The questionable Bulldogs’ play call gave Auburn the football deep in MSU territory. After a first down 27-yard completion from Marshall to Williams, it was first-and-goal at the MSU ten-yard line. But, in what would become a theme, the Tigers could not punch the ball into the end zone and settled for another Carlson field goal attempt. The redshirt freshman converted this time, and cut the lead to 21-3.

On the ensuing drive, Auburn cornerback Jonathan Jones made the first of his two interceptions, which gave the Tigers their second consecutive turnover on defense. Auburn again took control of the football in Mississippi State territory, and four plays later it was first-and-goal at the seven-yard line. Cameron Artis-Payne gained only two yards on two rushes, and then Marshall found Sammie Coates in the end zone for a touchdown!

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  • Wait, nope, Coates was flagged for illegal touching after his route carried him out of the back of the end zone, and he was the first player to touch the ball once he was back in bounds. Again, Carlson came on to kick, and the score was cut to 21-6.

    Recapping, two Auburn turnovers were turned quickly into two Mississippi touchdowns. Two Bulldogs’ turnovers resulted in two Tigers’ field goals.

    On the next MSU drive, Dak Prescott threw his second interception to Jones – this one coming in the end zone. Auburn took over at the 20, and after a quick first down, the drive quickly stalled. Auburn punted, but received a gift when Mississippi State punt returner Jamoral Graham let the ball bounce, then fumbled after picking it up.

    This time, the Tigers finally found the end zone. But it was too little, and too late. Four forced turnovers had resulted in only 13 points.

    The Bulldogs took care of the football the rest of the way, and Auburn would have no more opportunities to score following a sudden change. State added salt into the wound by causing a Ricardo Louis fumble on a kick return and scoring a third touchdown, and then ran out the clock after a late fourth quarter interception.

    Four Tiger turnovers on offense, 21 Mississippi State points. Four turnovers created by the defense/special teams, 13 points for Auburn.

    Malzahn, and Auburn fans, wish the Tigers had done more with their opportunities. If they had, the outcome might have been different. Instead, the team heads back to campus 5-1 and will be looking up at Mississippi State in the both the polls and the SEC West standings.