Miss. St. comes up short vs. Auburn

Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf is upended just short of the goal line by Auburn defensive back Ryan Smith (24) on the final play of the game. The Tigers won, 41-34.
Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf is upended just short of the goal line by Auburn defensive back Ryan Smith (24) on the final play of the game. The Tigers won, 41-34. (MIKE KITTRELL / Mobile Press Register)

The Tigers' win over the 16th-ranked Bulldogs preserved the nation's longest win streak at 17.

Posted: September 11, 2011

AUBURN, Ala. - Contrary to popular belief, it's too early to write off the defending national champs.

Auburn bounced back from a lackadaisical Week 1 effort, holding on to beat No. 16 Mississippi State, 41-34, when reserve safety Ryan Smith upended Bulldogs quarterback Chris Relf just shy of the goal line in the final seconds.

After a brief celebration, the officials cleared the field for a review. They came up with the same conclusion: Relf was 1 inch short, sending the Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd into a tizzy.

"There's something to being able to fight down to the end when it doesn't look good and still win a game," said Auburn head coach Gene Chizik.

It was Chizik's third win in three tries against Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, whose Bulldogs have yet to get over the hump in the competitive SEC West. The Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1 SEC) fell to 2-9 in division games under Mullen, including an 0-9 mark against Auburn, Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas.

"We've got to find a way to take that final inch," Mullen said. "That's where we are as a program."

It wasn't a decisive knockout. The Tigers (2-0, 1-0 SEC) allowed 531 yards in 97 plays to Mississippi State, struggling for a second straight week to find ways to get off the field on third downs, but they did enough.

"Are we a great football team now? No. Not even close," Chizik said. "But they will fight."

That was apparent after the Tigers went up by 41-27 on Philip Lutzenkirchen's 10-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter, then held on for dear life.

The win extended the nation's longest winning streak to 17 games, an especially satisfying win for a group whose critics had already written the team's 2011 obituary after the Tigers escaped the season opener with a 42-38 win against Utah State.

The too-close-for-comfort win against the Aggies dropped Auburn, which was ranked No. 23 to start the season, out of the AP poll.

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