Auburn well remembers sloppy game against MSU

Published 3:07 pm Thursday, September 11, 2008

AUBURN – Jerraud Powers just wanted to go home and sulk.

Auburn had lost to Mississippi State and looked bad doing it. The Tigers were 1-2 and the offense was a mess, and a Saturday night on the town held little appeal for the cornerback.

“I was very disappointed,” Powers said. “I was actually so mad that I didn’t go anywhere when I got home. I felt like a little kid who just lost a championship. I was that mad.”

When the ninth-ranked Tigers (2-0) visit Mississippi State on Saturday night, they’ll have redemption on their minds along with hopes of starting Southeastern Conference play on a better note.

The Bulldogs forced five turnovers and a quarterback change in last year’s 19-14 win at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Brandon Cox was yanked after throwing two early interceptions, setting the stage for the debut of freshman Kodi Burns.

This time, Burns just lost his bid for the starting job to Chris Todd.

Auburn rebounded from its first loss to Mississippi State to finish second to eventual national champion LSU in the SEC’s Western Division. It left little margin for error, though.

“It was very disappointing just to know you start the SEC on the bottom of the race,” Powers said. “We knew from that point on we were going to have to play catchup. It was disappointing but it was football. We had to get past it. We bounced our way back in the SEC West but it was a very disappointing start to the season, going 1-2 like we did.”

The Tigers, who had lost to South Florida the previous week, have heard plenty about last year’s game from coach Tommy Tuberville and his staff leading up to the rematch. They were picked to win the West this season and with half of the six teams in the division ranked among the nation’s top 11, getting started on the wrong foot again could be a big blow.

“It’s being brought up a whole lot,” Auburn receiver Robert Dunn said. “Coach Tubs just keeps reiterating everyday, ‘Hey, these guys came in here and whipped us last year.’ Then they talked junk about it after they did it. The coaches aren’t happy about it so they pushed us a lot more than they normally would this week.”

Tuberville said the loss wasn’t the tough part to swallow against an improved Mississippi State team. It was the way it happened.

The Tigers lost three fumbles in addition to Cox’s two early picks. The senior returned to drive Auburn downfield in the final minutes but a potentially game-winning pass fell short of Rod Smith in the end zone.

Mississippi State won despite managing only 41 yards passing.

“You don’t really feel good about a game when you go out and turn it over like that,” Tuberville said. “You don’t give yourself much of an opportunity. I think that’s what we were more disappointed in than anything. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot. Win or lose, don’t make mistakes that you shouldn’t make in a big game like a conference game.”

This Auburn team has also been turnover prone, committing four last weekend against Southern Miss. But the Tigers seem to have settled their quarterback controversy with Todd’s solid performance.

Tuberville wants his players using both last year’s game and a chance to make the SEC championship game in Atlanta as motivation.

“This is the first game of the SEC,” he said. “They work all year long knowing that they’ve got eight opportunities each year to have a chance to get to Atlanta. It starts with this one on the road.”

But, he added, “Last year brings back a little incentive.”