AUBURN, Alabama — Coach Dan Mullen has faith that senior quarterback Dak Prescott will put Mississippi State in position to win.
With Auburn stifling his team's ground game but unable to pressure him in the pocket, Prescott relied on his receivers to make plays on the perimeter.
It worked out just fine for the Bulldogs.
"There's never a situation or a play call that you're not comfortable with Dak running," Mullen said. "You don't have to protect him out there. He's going to manage a game no matter what."
Prescott threw two touchdown passes and Mississippi State's defense made four stops in the red zone to help the Bulldogs beat Auburn 17-9 on Saturday night.
The victory gave Mississippi State (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) a chance to stay relevant in the league's Western Division while Auburn (2-2, 0-2) continued a freefall that began with a preseason No. 6 ranking by The Associated Press.
The Tigers dropped out of the poll after last week's lopsided defeat at LSU and now they likely need to win their remaining SEC games and get help from other teams for a chance to win the division.
"We should be disappointed, but we're going to get better," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "Everybody kind of sees these preseason rankings and all that. It doesn't mean anything until about halfway through (the season)."
Malzahn sought to spark his offense earlier in the week, benching Jeremy Johnson in favor of redshirt freshman Sean White. The move didn't pay off immediately as the Tigers converted just four of 14 third-down chances despite a good statistical showing by White.
Richie Brown had two of the Bulldogs' four sacks and A.J. Jefferson had two of their eight tackles for minus yardage.
"We had a couple of opportunities to put the game away on offense," Mullen said. "We didn't do that, but our defense came up big every time we needed it."
Winning for the third time in the last four series matchups, Mississippi State got another outstanding performance from Prescott, who began the night with a pair of games against Auburn in which he passed for 200 yards and ran for 100.
All he needed was his arm this time, completing 29 of 41 passes for 270 yards. The Bulldogs only ran for 56 yards, but with Fred Brown, Fred Ross and De'Runnya Wilson catching Prescott's passes, there was little need for a consistent ground attack.
The Tigers moved the ball well — finishing with 389 yards — but they missed on four possessions inside the 10, trailing 14-6 on two field goals by Daniel Carlson.
On the game's first possession, White completed his first four passes before throwing the ball straight into the hands of cornerback Will Redmond near the goal line.
Near the end of the second quarter, the Tigers drove to the 2, but failed on two runs. Johnson came in for one play on the possession, but Mullen called timeout before the snap. On the next play, White had the ball snapped over his head and Carlson then missed a 26-yard field goal attempt.
Prescott, who improved to 17-7 in his career, benefited in the first three quarters from excellent protection and a nearly nonexistent Auburn pass rush.
The senior was able to set his feet on nearly every throw, connecting with Gabe Myles for a 32-yard touchdown pass over the middle for a 7-0 lead in the first and hitting Wilson down the right sideline for a 14-0 lead in the second.
Prescott managed the clock efficiently in the second half, helping the Bulldogs take a 17-6 lead late in the third on Westin Graves' 44-yard field goal.
Carlson's 51-yard field goal late in the fourth made it 17-9.
White completed 20 of 28 passes for 188 yards and had a 31-yard run. Barber had 137 yards rushing on 27 carries.
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