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No. 2 Auburn can't overcome slow start, turnovers in 38-23 loss to No. 3 Mississippi St

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STARKVILLE, Mississippi — Auburn's Nick Marshall had some good moments on Saturday afternoon.

His teammates D'haquille Williams and Jonathan Jones did as well.

But the Tigers couldn't pull themselves out of the mammoth hole their mistakes caused in the first few minutes of the game.

No. 3 Mississippi State beat No. 2 Auburn 38-23 on Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.

The Bulldogs capitalized on a nightmarish start for the Tigers, which included two turnovers on their first two offensive plays.

"We have to learn from this," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "We had a similar setback to this last year. There are a lot of champions in that locker room. They are disappointed and they should be."

Marshall threw for 209 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions while also running for 100 yards. Williams caught six passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Jones had two interceptions.

But Auburn couldn't overcome its turnovers.

"We struggled in the beginning, but that is a part of football, a part of the game," Auburn defensive lineman Angelo Blackson said. "We tried our best to get back into it, but we were just too deep in the hole."

Mississippi State's Dak Prescott threw for 246 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions while also running for 121 yards and a score. He completed 18 of 34 passes.

He also had lots of help. Josh Robinson ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns, De'Runnya Wilson caught four passes for 72 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown catch, and the Bulldogs defense bailed out the offense with red zone stops following turnovers.

"Every time we needed to make a play, a guy stepped up and made a play," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. "We always wondered how to take the next step in this league ... that's it."

Mississippi State (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) has won nine straight games going back to last season. Auburn (5-1, 2-1), the defending SEC champion, lost for the first time since last season's national championship game.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a stunning 21-0 lead in the first nine minutes — helped by two Auburn turnovers — but the Tigers pulled within 28-20 in the third quarter. They couldn't complete the comeback, though, undone by Ricardo Louis' fumble in the fourth quarter, penalties and an inconsistent offense.

Mississippi State won despite committing four turnovers.

PHOTO: Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson (13) stiff arms Auburn defensive back Johnathan Ford (23) as Auburn linebacker Kris Frost (17) assists in the tackle during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle)
Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson (13) stiff arms Auburn defensive back Johnathan Ford (23) as Auburn linebacker Kris Frost (17) assists in the tackle during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle)

The Bulldogs will find out on Sunday if the victory was enough to jump Florida State and earn the first No. 1 national ranking in school history. Florida State defeated Syracuse 38-20 on Saturday.

It was Prescott's first game since a breakout performance against Texas A&M. For the most part, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior handled the increased scrutiny well, making plays with both his arm and feet.

Auburn couldn't overcome its poor start.

The Tigers' first offensive play was Marshall's pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Jay Hughes. The second was a fumble by Williams that was recovered by Benardrick McKinney.

Mississippi State turned them both into touchdowns.

A few minutes later, Prescott rumbled into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown and the Bulldogs — who were hosting their first game between top five teams in school history — had a three-touchdown advantage.

But then it was Mississippi State's turn to start committing turnovers, with four before halftime. The Bulldogs threw three interceptions — including one by Logan Cooke on an ill-fated fake punt — and Jamoral Graham fumbled on a punt return.

Mississippi State's defense did the job despite Auburn's good field position. The Bulldogs held Auburn to two field goals before Marshall completed a 9-yard pass to Williams to pull the Tigers within 21-13.

That quieted the cowbells for a few minutes, but they roared again late in the second quarter when Prescott ran for a 15-yard touchdown and a 28-13 lead.

Mississippi State defensive lineman Preston Smith said the school-record crowd of 62,945 played a big factor.

"There was one point where I couldn't even hear myself think," Smith said. "But that's OK. I know if I can't hear myself think, they can't either. And they're the ones calling the plays."

Auburn pulled within 28-20 on an impressive 10-play, 99-yard touchdown drive midway through the third quarter that was capped by Marshall's 15-yard throw to Williams for the score.

The game started in the heat and sunshine, but it was raining by halftime. Marshall's passes started sailing high in the second half and he completed just 17 of 35 during the game.

Mississippi State went ahead 31-20 on a 21-yard field goal with 11:33 remaining.

On the ensuing kickoff, Ricardo Louis fumbled and the Bulldogs recovered. Two plays later, Robinson ran for a 1-yard touchdown and the celebration began in Starkville.


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