The Opening Drive: Auburn vs. Mississippi State

AUBURN, Ala. – Before Auburn’s charter flight departed from College Station, Texas, assistant coaches were already grading game video on their tablets, repeatedly clicking back and forth through each play to evaluate what worked and what did not, and why.

The next day, they reviewed the video during meetings and spent time in practice making corrections.

While players rested on Monday, coaches prepared the game plan for Saturday’s matchup with Mississippi State, a team that’s attempted 490 passes, 145 more than the SEC’s next pass-happiest program.

“We all know what they’re capable of doing, throwing the ball all over the place,” said Auburn coach Bryan Harsin, noting MSU quarterback Will Rogers’ 75.1 completion percentage. 

For all of the attention Mississippi State’s Air Raid offense receives, the Bulldogs’ defense does its part, ranking No. 3 in the SEC in rushing defense and No. 4 in total defense, allowing only 22 points in a road win at then No. 15 Texas A&M and 17 in a home victory vs. then No. 12 Kentucky.  

“It all starts with being physical,” Auburn offensive lineman Austin Troxell said. “Being consistent, play in and play out. When we get that done, we run the ball better and more effectively. That’s one way we need to finish out these last games.”

No. 16 Auburn (6-3, 3-2) hosts Mississippi State (5-4, 3-3) on Saturday at 11 a.m. CT from Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN with Bob Wischusen, Dan Orlovsky and Kris Budden on the call while Andy Burcham, Stan White, Ronnie Brown, Brad Law and Paul Ellen will describe the action on the Auburn Sports Network. 

“It’s really about us and what we have to do as far as getting ourselves prepared,” Harsin said. “Focusing on our execution, the consistency that we have to have to play good football on Saturday.”

Auburn Football vs Georgia, Derick Hall
 

THREE QUESTIONS WITH … EDGE DERICK HALL

Q: Last week, the defense didn’t allow a touchdown at Texas A&M. How do you build that from performance and carry it into this week’s game? 

A: After the game, you’ve got to assess the good and the bad of things you have to work on. Not giving up a touchdown, that’s momentum for us coming into this week. Obviously, playing a team that likes to throw the ball around a lot, we have to be on our Ps and Qs as far as getting to the quarterback and trying to get him off his spot. But just taking the momentum from last into this week and having that confidence is going to be huge. 

Q: What’s the key when facing an offense like Mississippi State? 

A: Just discipline. Eyes, technique, fundamentals. Just knowing your job and everybody doing their 1/11th on the field. It’s really knowing what you have to do, locking in on your task, knowing formation. It’s simple stuff you do every day with football but being more refined in your technique and your transition from spot to spot. 

Q: What’s been the biggest change playing for a new coordinator in Derek Mason

A: The standard has always been the standard here at Auburn. Just having a great defense. So when Coach Mason came in, he brought his defense with him. Everybody knows he’s a great coach, a great leader, a great defensive coordinator. We’ve been able to follow his plan coming in, knowing everything was going to change and taking it step by step and day by day. All the coaches on the defensive staff, they love getting us better and love developing us. 
 

INSIDE THE SERIES: MISSISSIPPI STATE

Auburn holds a 65-27-2 (.702) record all-time against Mississippi State and has won eight of the last 12 matchups against the Bulldogs. The Tigers were a 24-10 winner last year in Starkville. In 2019, the last time the two sides met at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn matched its record for points scored in the series with 56 points in a 56-23 victory. 

The home team has won seven of the last 10 games. The Tigers have won five of the last six meetings at home and have a 30-7 advantage in all games played at Auburn. 

Series: Auburn, 65-27-2
At Auburn: Auburn, 30-7
At Starkville: Auburn, 14-7-1
At Neutral Sites: Auburn, 21-13-1
First Meeting: 1905 (Auburn, 18-0)
Most AU points: 56 (1970 and 2019)
Current Streak: Auburn, W2
 

BY THE NUMBERS

7.44: Auburn leads the SEC and is No. 12 nationally in team tackles for loss with 7.44 per game. Five different Tigers have six or more tackles for loss on the season, and the trio of Eku Leota, Smoke Monday and Colby Wooden are tied for the team lead with seven. 

13: Quarterback Bo Nix has 13 career games with a passing and a rushing touchdown, including three this season – Ole Miss, Arkansas and LSU. Auburn won all three of those games. The Tigers are 11-2 when Nix scores with both his arm and his legs. 

2006: Auburn has held its last two opponents, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, without a passing touchdown. It’s the first time since 2006 the Tigers have gone consecutive games without allowing a passing touchdown when both games were against SEC opponents. That year, they held Mississippi State and LSU without a passing score. 

44.09: The Tigers lead the SEC and are ranked fifth nationally in net punting (44.09) this season. At 46 yards per punt, sophomore Oscar Chapman leads the conference and is 16th best in the country. For Chapman, his average is up from 41 yards a year ago. 
 

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