Auburn Tigers quarterback Robby Ashford (9) throws the ball as the Auburn Tigers take on Arkansas Razorbacks at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. Arkansas Razorbacks defeated Auburn Tigers 41-27.

Auburn’s Cadillac Williams to make head-coaching debut vs. Mississippi St.

Auburn interim coach Carnell “Cadillac” Williams will hope to salvage the Tigers’ season, beginning with a game at slumping Mississippi State on Saturday night in Starkville, Miss.

Williams, who was in his fourth season of coaching the Tigers’ running backs, replaced Bryan Harsin after he was dismissed on Monday after less than two seasons on the job.

“I truly believe Auburn has the potential to be a championship program once again,” Harsin wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “The resources, financial support and fan base are in place.”

The Tigers (3-5, 1-4 SEC), mired in a four-game-losing streak, went 9-12 under Harsin, with losses in 10 of their past 13 games dating to last season.

Mississippi State (5-3, 2-3) is coming off a 30-6 loss at then-No. 6 Alabama, the Bulldogs’ second straight loss after opening the season 5-1.

The Bulldogs and Tigers play contrasting styles of offense.

Led by Will Rogers, who has thrown for an SEC-high 2,555 yards and 23 touchdowns with just four interceptions, the Bulldogs average 410.8 yards per game but have rushed for a league-low 713.

Auburn has struggled throwing the ball. Robby Ashford has completed 52.6 percent of his passes for 1,299 yards and five touchdowns with five interceptions. Auburn averages just 217.3 yards through the air, ahead of only Missouri and Vanderbilt in the conference.

However, Auburn has been successful running the ball. That’s a major reason why Williams — a former All-American running back at Auburn — was promoted while offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau and tight ends coach Brad Bedell were among several assistants who were fired on Monday.

Tank Bigsby has averaged 5.3 yards per carry, rushing for 587 yards and seven scores on 110 carries. Ashford has added 397 yards and three touchdowns on 93 carries.

“Auburn’s full of a bunch of players who had offers all over the conference,” Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said. “Us and everybody else wanted those guys on their team.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 1, 2022; Starkville, Mississippi, USA;  Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Dillon Johnson (23) runs the ball against the Texas A&M Aggies during the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Will Rogers leads Mississippi St. past Texas A&M

Will Rogers threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns to lead Mississippi State to a 42-24 victory over No. 17 Texas A&M on Saturday in Starkville, Miss.

Rogers, who went 31-for-45 passing, threw scoring strikes of 5 and 4 yards in the first half before tossing a 75-yard touchdown pass in the second half.

The Bulldogs also forced four turnovers that led to 14 points.

Dillon Johnson rushed for 68 yards and a score on 14 carries for the Bulldogs (4-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference). Rara Thomas had five catches for 135 yards and a touchdown and Justin Robinson caught six passes for 50 yards.

Max Johnson went 18-for-25 passing for 201 yards and a touchdown for the Aggies (3-2, 1-1), while Devon Achane rushed for 111 yards on 16 carries. Moose Muhammad III had six catches for 119 yards and a score.

After Texas A&M pulled to within 14-3 on its first possession of the third quarter, the Bulldogs’ defense struck back.

Emmanuel Forbes burst through the line to block Randy Cross’ 44-yard field goal attempt, and Decamerion Richardson grabbed the ball and ran 50 yards into the end zone for a 21-3 lead with 5:02 left in the third quarter.

The Aggies pulled to within 21-10 on Max Johnson’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Muhammad with 2:35 left in the quarter.

Mississippi State countered with Dillon Johnson’s touchdown run on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line for a 28-10 lead with 12:42 left in the game.

Backup quarterback Haynes King’s 4-yard run pulled the Aggies to within 28-17 with 7:14 remaining, but Rogers needed just one play to throw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Thomas to make it 35-17 just 11 seconds later.

Forbes made it 42-17 when he stepped in front of King’s pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown with 3:29 left before Texas A&M’s LJ Johnson Jr. capped the scoring with a 1-yard run with 94 seconds left.

Mississippi State took a 7-0 lead when Rogers threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Caleb Ducking to cap an 11-play, 94-yard drive with 6:10 left in the second quarter.

After forcing Texas A&M to go three-and-out on its ensuing possession, the Bulldogs drove 70 yards in nine plays, with Rogers capping the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Rufus Harvey for a 14-0 advantage.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach reacts after a play against the Memphis Tigers during the fourth quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Leach faces familiar foe as Mississippi St. visits Arizona

Mike Leach returns to Pac-12 country when Mississippi State travels to play Arizona for the Wildcats’ home opener on Saturday night in Tucson, Ariz.

Leach spent eight seasons as the coach at Washington State before taking over the Bulldogs for the 2020 season. He went 4-2 against Arizona while with the Cougars, with his team scoring 69 points in two of those games.

Mississippi State (1-0) opened the season last Saturday with a 49-23 home victory in a lightning-delayed game against Memphis. Standout quarterback Will Rogers completed 38 of 49 passes for 450 yards and five touchdowns, all to different teammates. The Bulldogs rolled to 34 first downs.

Leach’s Air Raid offense will be a wildly different attack from what the Wildcats (1-0) saw last week in a surprising 38-20 victory against the host San Diego State Aztecs, whose modest passing game was held to 62 yards on 16 attempts.

“Mike Leach is always going to have very good passers,” Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch said. “There’s nothing really surprising in terms of the fact that he’s producing a 400-yard passer. That’s what he does.”

Arizona counters with Jayden de Laura, a Washington State transfer who committed to the Cougars while Leach was there. De Laura was excellent in his Arizona debut last week, completing 22 of 35 passes for 299 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception.

“He’s a very competitive guy and a good player,” Leach said. “He’s got quick feet. The ball comes off his hand quickly, and he’s accurate. He’s definitely a good player. He’s competitive, and he makes that side of the ball for them competitive.”

De Laura and UTEP transfer Jacob Cowing (eight catches, 152 yards, three TDs last week) sparked the offense against San Diego State and provided hope for a big 2022 turnaround. Last season, the Wildcats scored 20-plus points in a game only twice in a 1-11 season.

This is the first meeting between Arizona and Mississippi State. They are scheduled to play next season in Starkville, Miss.

–Field Level Media