STARKVILLE, Miss. - First, let's get one thing out of the way. What we saw Saturday was a pretty standard Mississippi State football team - hard-nosed, plays hard, has some good players, ordinary as can be overall.
What we didn't see was anything like a standard Auburn football team. On this day, inside muggy Davis Wade Stadium, Auburn's football team was outhit, outrun, outplayed, outcoached or any other out word you want to come up with in giving up 21 unanswered points in the second half.
The defense was salty in the first half then, handed the lead by Onterio McCalebb's 100-yard return of the second-half kickoff, promptly allowed two long touchdown drives. The offense was not good at any time. It wasn't even close to good. It was awful.
Kiehl Frazier had a nightmare of a game in his first road start, turning the ball over five times on three interceptions and two fumbles. He had only 18 yards passing after three quarters before adding in the fourth quarter after the issue was decided. The offensive line, the receivers, you name it, were bad. Mike Blakely, getting his first real chance, had some good moments. Tre Mason did all right.
It wasn't shocking that Auburn lost Saturday. After all, Mississippi State was favored. But the manner in which it happened was positively stunning, at least to me.
When McCalebb returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown, I thought Auburn would take command. Instead, MSU took command. And kept it. And made Auburn's football team look helpless, lost and defeated on both sides of the ball.
I have said for weeks I believed this Auburn team would get better as it goes, but it was better last Saturday against Clemson than this Saturday against Mississippi State. Or maybe Clemson's defense just isn't all that good.
Other than Blakely running the ball - and it's not like he had a huge day - and McCalebb's kickoff return, I can't think of one thing positive to say about what Auburn did here Saturday.
The defense looked much better in the first half, but it looked like last week or worse in the second half. The offense was overmatched or just not good enough or something.
There'll be better days, but if this Auburn football team is going to avoid a full-blown disaster of a season, it has to get a whole lot better in a real big hurry.
What we saw Saturday won't beat Vanderbilt. It won't beat Ole Miss. It might not even beat Louisiana-Monroe. No reason to even mention LSU, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama.
It was, in almost every way, a performance unworthy of all those people Gene Chizik talks about who came before.
Auburn players and coaches said the right things when it was over. Chizik called the performance "dismal."
"I'm going to own it," he said.
Players said they would come back harder than ever, that they would get better, that better days were ahead.
Maybe so. But, for Auburn, there were no good times to be seen on the second Saturday in September.