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Top 5 Game vs. Mississippi State: I Need More Cowbell

(Editor’s note: Each week this football season, Auburn University Journalism Instructor and The Auburn Plainsman Adviser Austin Phillips will break down the greatest games against that week’s opponent or notable games in that week’s history. Break it down, Austin.)

Corey Barlow and some guy who gave an interview with “60 Minutes” celebrate a sack in the 1990 MSU game at Starkville, Miss. (1991 Glomerata)

For the 86th time, Auburn will face off against the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday, Sept. 8, with the Tigers holding a 60-23-2 series advantage. The Tigers took the opening game in 1905 in Columbus, Miss. (18-0), and then reeled off nine more victories against the Bulldogs in Birmingham to open the series 10-0. MSU made a start at closing the very wide gap in the late ’90s, but the Tigers have won four-in-a-row and are looking for their first victory of the 2012 campaign.

No. 5: Nov. 9, 1957-Birmingham
AU 15

In front of a crowd of 43,000 in Birmingham’s Legion Field, the Tigers improved to 7-0 with the 15-7 victory over Mississippi State en route to the 1957 AP National Championship. Although the Tigers racked up 208 yards on the ground, the Bulldogs struck first on a 57-yard pass from backup quarterback Tom Miller to Ned Brooks. The Tigers answered on the opening drive of the second half on a 13-play, 76-yard drive that culminated in a Billy Atkins 2-yard touchdown run. “Big” John Whatley gave the Tigers a safety after Jackie Burkett stormed through the MSU line as the Bulldogs attempted a punt from their own end zone, forcing punter Bill Schoenrock right into the hands of Whatley. The Tigers sealed the victory when All-American and Outland Trophy winner Zeke Smith recovered a State football at the 10 and Atkins carried it in three plays later for the score. The Tigers held quarterback Billy Stacy and the potent State offense to just 137 yards, including a 1-of-5 effort through the air for 57 yards.

No. 4: Oct. 27, 1990-Starkville, Miss.
AU 17
MSU 16

Ranked No. 2 in the nation with a 5-0-1 record (tied Tennessee 26-26), Auburn squeaked out a win over the Bulldogs by blocking Darrel Crawford’s extra point attempt in the waning minutes of the game. Following a grueling home victory over No. 7 Florida State, 20-17, Auburn hit the road to Starkville, Miss., where the Tigers found themselves in a fight for their lives. State got on the board first with a Joel Logan field goal, but the Tigers answered the State score on the ensuing drive with a touchdown pass from Stan White to Greg Taylor. Tony Richardson rumbled in for the rushing score in the second quarter to put the Tigers up 14-3, but State answered on a touchdown pass from Tony Shell to Chris Firle as time expired in the half. Jim Von Wyl gave the Tigers a 17-10 lead on a 20-yard field goal to open the final quarter, but the Bulldogs weren’t done yet. MSU scored with less than three minutes remaining to pull within 1 before Crawford sealed the Tiger victory with the blocked kick. The AU victory was not only dramatic, but it was also the final victory in an eight-game win streak over the Bulldogs before losing three of the next four to MSU.

No. 3: Sept. 9, 2010-Starkville, Miss.
AU 17
MSU 14

Despite an output of 348 yards of total offense, the eventual BCS Champion Tigers’ offense struggled to its lowest point total of the year in this defensive slugfest in Starkville, Miss. Although Cam Newton was not as Superman-like as he proved to be the rest of the season, he still accounted for 228 total yards, including 11-of-19 through the air for 136 yards and two touchdowns, 70 yards rushing on 18 carries and 22 yards receiving on one catch. Just like the following year when the Tigers stopped the Bulldogs on the 1-inch line, the Auburn defense had to man-up and stop MSU on the final drive to preserve the victory, 17-14. Although the AU offense went cold in the second half, Newton connected with Emory Blake on a 39-yard screen play on the game’s opening drive to put the Tigers on top, and they never trailed. State answered on a goal line run by Gabe Jackson at the end of the first quarter before Newton once again struck from the air, this time from 12 yards out to Darvin Adams. Wes Byrum, as he did all season, connected from 34 yards in the second quarter to put what would prove to be the winning points on the board. The AU defense gave up a 12-play, 63-yard drive in the third quarter to pull the Bulldogs to within 3, but the Tigers’ D would not break the rest of the game. This early road test proved to be a huge steppingstone for the championship team.

No. 2: Oct. 6, 2001-Auburn
AU 16
MSU 14

Although the Tigers faltered down the stretch in 2001, this special teams victory set up an even bigger special teams victory the following week. The victory also broke a four-game losing streak to State, and restored order in the series. State had beaten the Tigers in SEC Western Division Championship years 1997 and 2000, and looked poised to do it again to the 2001 SEC Western Division Co-Champions. The Auburn rushing attack accounted for 214 yards on 48 carries, with Casinious Moore leading the way with 20 carries for 160 yards (Carnell “Cadillac” Williams also had 23 yards on 11 carries, while Ronnie Brown had two carries for 2 yards). Moore got the Tigers on the board first on a 50-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and then the special teams took over. John Marlin got the Bulldogs on the board in the second quarter on a pair of field goals to pull within 1 at the half before Wayne Madkin connected with Justin Jenkins from 37 yards out and added the two-point conversion on a pass from Madkin to Jenkins to give State a 14-7 second-half lead. But the fourth quarter belonged to Auburn kicker Damon Duval. Time after time after time, the Tigers’ drives stalled. But Duval was there to pick up the slack. Duval kicked three field goals in the final quarter (from 30, 19 and the final from 47 yards out) to give the Tigers the 16-14 come-from-behind victory. Duval delivered the final kick from 47 yards out with 18 seconds remaining to seal the win. Duval would go on to kick an even bigger kick the next week to lead the Tigers to a 23-20 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium over the No. 1-ranked Florida Gators.

No. 1: Sept. 10, 2011- Auburn
AU 41
MSU 34

Fresh off a thrilling last-minute victory over Utah State, 42-38, to open the season, the defending national champion Tigers rose early for the 11 a.m. kickoff to face the first SEC challenge of the season. It took a last-second stop on the 1-inch line, but Auburn’s defense finally found a way to stop the Bulldogs when backup safety Ryan Smith got low and put a shoulder into State quarterback Chris Relf at the goal line to thwart MSU’s comeback and seal the Tiger victory, 41-34. The Bulldogs torched the Tigers’ defense for 533 yards of total offense, including 333 on the ground (sound familiar?), but the Auburn defense stood tall when it mattered most. The Tiger ground game wasn’t too shabby either, as Mike Dyer rushed for 150 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. The Tigers jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead on a 35-yard Dyer touchdown run and Demetruce McNeal’s tipped interception return for six, but the Bulldogs tied it up at the end of the first on a 40-yard LaDarius Perkins score and a 15-yard strike from Relf to Brandon Heavens. MSU pulled ahead in the second quarter when Auburn quarterback Barrett Trotter was picked off by Johnathan Banks and he returned it 27 yards for the touchdown. Trotter got even on the ensuing drive with a 46-yard touchdown pass to Emory Blake, and Dyer added his second score of the day on a 2-yard run on the Tigers’ next possession. MSU kicker Derek DePasquale and AU kicker Cody Parkey accounted for three points apiece to close out the half and again to open the second half before Philip Lutzenkirchen hauled in a 10-yard pass from Trotter on the opening drive of the final quarter to score what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. State added a late score on a Vick Ballard run, but the Bulldogs’ quest for a third rushing touchdown fell 1 inch short on the final play. The play was reviewed and upheld, and the crowd erupted as the Tigers extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 17.

Honorable mention:

Sept. 13, 2008-Starkville, Miss.
AU 3

Oct. 25, 1986-Starkville, Miss.
AU 35

Sept. 9, 1972-Jackson, Miss.
AU 14

Oct. 10, 1953-Starkville, Miss.
AU 21
MSU 21

Oct. 8, 1910-Auburn
AU 6

Austin Phillips is an Auburn University journalism instructor and adviser to The Auburn Plainsman. He can be reached at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @ScoopPhillips.

Related: Mississippi State accuses Auburn of filling footballs with helium.

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