Prescott, Bulldogs extend Auburn’s freefall

Published 12:17 am Sunday, September 27, 2015

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Dak Prescott threw two touchdown passes and Mississippi State’s defense made four stops in the red zone to help the Bulldogs beat Auburn 17-9 on Saturday night.

The victory gave Mississippi State (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) a chance to stay relevant in the league’s Western Division while Auburn (2-2, 0-2) continued a freefall that began with a preseason No. 6 ranking by The Associated Press.

The Tigers dropped out of the poll after last week’s lopsided defeat at LSU and now they likely need to win their remaining SEC games and get help from other teams for a chance to win the division.

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Auburn coach Gus Malzahn sought to spark his offense earlier in the week, benching Jeremy Johnson in favor of redshirt freshman Sean White. The move didn’t pay off as the Tigers converted just four of 14 third-down chances despite a good statistical showing by White.

Winning for the third time in the last four series matchups, Mississippi State got another outstanding performance from Prescott, who began the night with a pair of games against Auburn in which he passed for 200 yards and ran for 100.

All he needed was his arm this time, completing 29 of 41 passes for 270 yards. The Bulldogs only ran for 56 yards, but with Fred Brown, Fred Ross and De’Runnya Wilson catching Prescott’s passes, there was little need for a consistent ground attack.

Mississippi State lost a chance to build on a 14-0 halftime lead early in the third when tight end Gus Walley caught a pass to convert a fourth down, but lost a fumble recovered by Johnathan Jones.

The Tigers had little trouble moving the ball — they had 313 yards entering the fourth quarter — but they missed on four possessions inside the 10, trailing 14-6 on two field goals by Daniel Carlson.

Auburn blew two close chances to score in the first half.

On the game’s first possession, White completed his first four passes before throwing the ball straight into the hands of cornerback Will Redmond near the goal line.

Near the end of the second quarter, the Tigers drove to the 2, but failed on two runs, had the ball snapped over White’s head and settled for a 26-yard field-goal attempt that Carlson missed.

Johnson came in for one play on the possession, but Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen called timeout before the snap.

On the next play, White had the ball snapped over his head and running back Peyton Barber recovered.

Prescott, who improved to 17-7 in his career, benefited in the first three quarters from excellent protection and a nearly nonexistent Auburn pass rush. The senior was able to set his feet on nearly every throw, connecting with Gabe Myles for a 32-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead in the first.