Party On In Starkville Tonight! Miss. State Beats Auburn, 43-34, After Biggest Comeback in School History

They have called Mississippi State coach Mike Leach “The Pirate” for his unconventional ways of offense on the field and his demeanor off it since his days as Texas Tech’s head coach.

Now, just call him “Captain Comeback.”

Leach’s Bulldogs (6-4, 4-3 SEC) broke the school record for largest comeback Saturday by erasing a 28-3 deficit in the second quarter at No. 17 Auburn and winning, 43-34, at Jordan-Hare Stadium behind 415 yards passing and six touchdown passes by quarterback Will Rogers III.

“I’m going to get on a bus and I’m going to ride for four hours to Starkville, Mississippi,” Leach said after the win. “Those of you who have never been to Starkville, Mississippi, haven’t even the fragment of imagination of what you’re missing tonight.”

The 25-point comeback eclipsed the Mississippi State record of 20 set less than two months ago in the season opener on Sept. 4 when the Bulldogs came back from a 34-14 deficit to Louisiana Tech to win 35-34.

Mississippi State beat its third-ranked opponent on the season.

Rogers completed 44 of 55 passes in all, while Auburn quarterback Bo Nix hit 27 of 41 for 377 yards and two touchdowns.

“We can be explosive,” Rogers said. “I love this team. We’re never out of the fight. I’ve got great teammates and great coaches on offense and defense. The defense played a great game in the second half.”

State trailed 28-10 at the half. Leach described his team’s play in the first half as trying not to “screw up.”

“Coach said, ‘Let’s go down and score on these guys,'” Rogers said when asked what Leach said to the team at the half. “He said to just do what we do. We just did what we did on Tuesday at practice.”

Early in the fourth quarter, State completed its reversal of the 28-3 deficit to take its first lead at 29-28 when Rogers completed a 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Makai Polk with 13:28 to play. The Bulldogs missed a two-point conversion.

Rogers struck again with a 3-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jamire Calvin for a 36-28 lead with 9:35 to go and threw a 6-yard touchdown to wide receiver Malik Heath for a 43-28 advantage with 5:31 remaining.

The touchdown happened just after Auburn defensive end T.D. Moultry was disqualified for a targeting hit against Rogers that looked questionable and drew the ire of the frustrated Auburn fans. The play gave State its fifth first down of the game by penalty.

Auburn (6-4, 3-3 SEC) took a 28-3 lead in the second quarter on back-to-back, 4-yard and 15-yard touchdown passes by Nix to tight end Luke Deal and wide receiver Kobe Hudson.

State reversed the momentum a tad on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Rogers to Polk with 1:55 to play in the second quater to draw within 28-10 at the half.

“A key drive was the last drive of the first half,” Rogers said.

Then Rogers threw consecutive, 3-yard touchdown passes to wide receiver Jamire Calvin and tailback Dillon Johnson to get the Bulldogs within 28-23 with 4:28 to play in the third quarter after a two-point conversion failed.

Auburn took a 14-3 lead with 4:25 to go in the first quarter on a 57-yard touchdown run by wide receiver Ja’Varrius Johnson on a reverse. Tailback Tank Bigsby gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead on the opening possession of the first quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run.


In the other brunch kickoff at 11 a.m. (CST), No. 2 Alabama cruised by New Mexico State for a 59-3 win with 587 yards of offense to 138 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The Tide (9-1, 5-1 SEC) also rolled up 30 first downs to 10 by New Mexico State (1-9). Alabama hosts No. 25 Arkansas at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS.

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Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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