STARKVILLE, Miss. - As Onterio McCalebb broke into the clear with the second-half kickoff, the players on the Auburn sideline were leaping for joy. They knew he wouldn't be caught and he wasn't.
DE Corey Lemonier hits MSU QB Tyler Russell/Todd Van Emst photo
As McCalebb crossed the goal line with a 100-yard return of the second-half kickoff, giving Auburn a 10-7 lead over Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium, Auburn defensive players huddled together. This, they told each other, was the time to stand tall.
It took Mississippi State eight plays to go 75 yards and claim the lead.
"It was mind-boggling," said sophomore safety Jermaine Whitehead.
Then, after an Auburn punt, the Bulldogs went 58 yards in 10 plays for another touchdown. And then, after a three-and-out, they went 62 yards in three plays for yet another. And it was over. Auburn was 0-2 for the first time since 2003.
The Tigers open a three-game homestand with Louisiana-Monroe next Saturday, then they play LSU, have an open date and play Arkansas.
Auburn struggled mightily on offense until Mississippi State, with the game in hand, pulled back the pressure. Sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier, in his second start and first on the road, threw three interceptions and fumbled twice. He was 10-of-12 for 107 yards in the fourth quarter, but he was 3-of-10 for 18 yards in the first three quarters.
"I don't think it was just one player," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "Sometimes it is the protection. Sometimes it is missing an open receiver. Other than that last drive, we struggled all day in the passing game. Everybody wants to bring up Kiehl Frazier, but there are 10 other guys out there with him."
The defense was strong for most of the first half, then wilted when it mattered most. Auburn finished with 216 yards of offense, 90 in the first three quarters. Mississippi State rushed for 166 yards, led by one-time Auburn commitment LaDarius Perkins with 83 yards on 14 carries. Tyler Russell completed 20-of-29 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
Mississippi State romped from its 25 to Auburn's 19 on its first possession, but the Auburn defense stiffened and Devon Bell missed a 36-yard field goal.
In the second quarter, cornerback Jonathon Mincy stripped the ball away after a short pass and Auburn started from the Mississippi State 30.
The Bulldogs answered with a 70-yard drive in seven plays to take the lead on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Russell to Marcus Green. They had the ball back one play later after a Frazier pass was intercepted by Jonathan Banks. But Bell's field goal attempt was blocked by Angelo Blackson.
McCalebb took the second-half kickoff two yards deep in the end zone, went to his left, split two defenders and went the distance.
Auburn's last vestige of hope died when, on third-and-11 at the MSU 14, Frazier's pass was intercepted by Darius Slay in the end zone.
For a video of Chizik's postgame interview, follow the link below.