AUBURN, Ala. -- It had been nearly two years since Auburn’s last SEC victory, but the Tigers put an end to the losing streak with a 24-20 win over Mississippi State on Saturday. Here are three things we learned from the game:
Nick Marshall is clutch: The Auburn quarterback clearly had his best game of the season on Saturday. He threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns. But the biggest takeaway was the poise and moxie he showed on the final drive. It didn’t matter that the Tigers were trailing or that they had to drive 88 yards to win the game. Marshall stayed calm, exuded confidence, and the team rallied behind him. As Gus Malzahn put it, Marshall looked natural on the last drive. He hadn’t been in a situation quite like that since his high school days, but the bigger stage didn’t faze him. He’s come a long way since the first half of the season opener.
The defense made just enough plays: It was the same old story for Auburn’s defense. It gave up more than 400 yards for the third consecutive game, but it made stops when it needed to and held Mississippi State to 20 points. Credit Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, who played much better than most expected in place of Tyler Russell, but after a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, the Bulldogs never scored again. Eventually, the struggles will likely catch up to Auburn, but something has to be said for keeping the opponent off the scoreboard, no matter how you do it. The Tigers did fail to force a turnover for the first time all season.
Winning is contagious: It’s amazing what a couple victories to start the season will do for a team. There’s a good chance that last year’s team, personnel aside, would have let this one slip away. But this year’s Auburn team seems to have bought into what Malzahn and his coaching staff are trying to do, and it’s translated on the field. The Tigers are 3-0 and have already matched the number of victories from last year. Auburn isn’t quite in the same category as an Alabama or LSU just yet, but a bowl game is looking more and more likely. The Tigers are trending up. Mississippi State is trending in the opposite direction.