Maybe ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit isn’t so far off the mark afterall.
After watching Thursday night’s college football game unfold live and in color at Mississippi State’s Davis-Wade Stadium, Herbstreit’s prediction that the Auburn Tigers can win the Southeastern Conference Western Division may not be so far-fetched.
Quarterback Cam Newton and the Tigers came to town and defeated the Bulldogs 17-14 and gained an early advantage in the SEC West.
There were certain radio talk shows that had a field day bashing Herbstreit’s comments about what he thought about Auburn.
Although the Tigers may not win the division, there’s no reason to doubt they can stay in the hunt after watching them play.
With Newton behind the center, Auburn has a chance to do some more winning.
It’s easy to see why MSU coach Dan Mullen was so interested in getting Newton to come play for the Bulldogs.
The 6-foot-6 and 215-pound signal caller from College Park, Ga., exhibits a nice throwing ability with a physical running style.
“He’s a good athlete and becomes very creative when a play breaks down,” Mullen said. “Our guys knew that.”
Newton took Auburn down on its first offensive possession and threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Emory Blake.
After the Bulldogs tied the game when Gabe Jackson recovered a fumble by Chris Relf in the end zone, Newton put the Tigers back on top with 8:39 remaining in the second quarter with a 12-yard scoring strike to Darvin Adams.
MSU linebacker Chris White, who led the team in tackles with 11, admitted that chasing Newton all night long wasn’t pleasant.
“He’s definitely a good quarterback, no doubt about it,” White said. “You’ve got to worry about him running the ball and throwing it.”
The Bulldogs had a good idea to start the second half. The best way to keep Newton from beating you is to keep the football out of his hands.
Vick Ballard scored on a 1-yard run for MSU, then they recovered an on-side kick to put the offense right back on the field. Three Relf incompletions later, the Bulldogs were punting the ball back to Auburn.
MSU kept Newton at bay for most of the second half until late in the fourth quarter when he tossed a pass to former quarterback Kodi Burns, who then threw it back to Newton for a 22-yard gain.
It was obvious that the Bulldogs made some defensive adjustments at halftime because Newton was more frustrated, but couldn’t get anything going on the offensive side of the football.
Newton combined for 228 totals yards with 70 on the ground, 136 passing and the 22 receiving. As a team, MSU compiled 246 yards of total offense.
The Bulldogs have made strides during the time Mullen has been the head coach, but still have work to do in order to win these kind of games.
MSU seemed to be one or two plays away from upsetting the No. 21 team in the country.
“Every time we hit a high note, we thudded,” Mullen said.
The Bulldogs may not have arrived yet, but they are in the neighborhood.
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.