Rogers, Mississippi State rally past No. 16 Auburn 43-34

Jake Crandall-USA TODAY NETWORK
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AUBURN, Ala. — Will Rogers threw for 415 yards and six touchdowns, and Mississippi State beat No. 16 Auburn 43-34 on Saturday.

Auburn (6-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) scored touchdowns on its first four possessions and led 28-3 midway through the second quarter. But Mississippi State (6-4, 4-3) rallied, scoring 40 unanswered points behind Rogers’ arm.

“I think the biggest thing is that we didn’t get discouraged by the first half, which should have been easy to do,” Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said. “That first half, I thought we kind of played tentatively and played not to lose. Then we played aggressively. We played faster.”

Rogers completed 44 of 54 passes, connecting with 10 different Bulldogs. Jaden Walley had seven catches for 87 yards, and Jakai Polk finished with 61 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions.

Mississippi State was held to just one field goal on its first three drives. Then Rogers threw for his six touchdowns on the Bulldogs’ next seven drives. He only had three incompletions after the first quarter.

“I felt like we all were just doing a good job,” Rogers said of his second half. “The o-line did a good job of blocking. (Auburn) played a lot of man coverage today, and the receivers were doing a great job of getting off with their routes. It’s kind of crazy to think I completed that many, because some of those were contested. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my receivers.”

Auburn’s offense got off to a strong start behind Bo Nix, who finished with 377 yards passing and two touchdowns. But, as the defense struggled to slow Mississippi State’s passing attack after halftime, the Tigers were held to 158 yards and six points in the second half.

“We’re not going to make excuses,” Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said. “We’ve got to take this and learn from it. … You’ve got to be able to start like we did, and you’ve got to be able to finish much better than we did.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Mississippi State: Heading into Saturday, the Bulldogs had only lost one game by more than three points all season. The comeback win showed Mississippi State is truly never out of its games, thanks to Leach’s Air Raid offense. It is now bowl-eligible with two home games left in the season.

Auburn: After back-to-back strong performances, Auburn’s defense melted down after the first quarter. Its offense has been inconsistent this season, but such a sudden drop-off for the other side of the ball is a worrying sign with two SEC games remaining.

ROAD WARRIORS

The win ensured a winning record away from home for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have beaten two ranked opponents on the road, and their only two road losses came by a combined five points.

“We try to keep the routine the same as it is at home,” Leach said. “You just try to focus on the work at hand and the job instead of a bunch of stuff you can’t control.”

HISTORIC RESULT

The rally from 25 points down for a win was the largest comeback in Mississippi State history. It also marked the biggest blown lead in a loss for Auburn.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Auburn was the highest ranked three-loss team in the country and had a chance to move into the top 15 with a win. However, a home collapse against an unranked team likely will send the Tigers tumbling down the poll.

UP NEXT

Mississippi State returns home next Saturday to host Tennessee State.

Auburn goes on the road to face South Carolina next Saturday night.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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Donald Page/Getty Images
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.