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September 9, 2006

Lester, Cox carry Auburn over Mississippi State

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STARKVILLE, Miss. - Brad Lester rushed for two touchdowns and Brandon Cox passed for two more as No. 4 Auburn overpowered Mississippi State 34-0 on Saturday.

The Tigers (2-0, 1-0 SEC) have now won 18 of their last 19 SEC games, dating back to the 2004 league title game, and are a conference-best 37-12 since 2000.

Lester found plenty of running room as the Bulldogs (0-2, 0-2) focused on top runner Kenny Irons, who was held to 69 yards - ending his streak of seven consecutive games with more than 100 yards rushing.

The faster Lester exploited the edges of Mississippi State's defense, rushing for 40 yards and twice taking the ball wide and sprinting for scores.

His first touchdown, a 2-yard run to the left corner, put Auburn up 14-0 with 11:35 remaining in the first half. The play was set up by Karibi Dede's fumble recovery after Auburn's Sen'Derrick Marks sacked and stripped the ball away from Mississippi State quarterback Tray Rutland at the Bulldogs 1.

Another Rutland mistake late in the quarter allowed Auburn to extend its lead. Rutland was driving his team but was intercepted by David Irons with 2:01 left.

Eight plays later, John Vaughn was short on a 50-yard field goal, but the Tigers were flagged for delay of game.

This time Auburn would benefit from its mistake. Vaughn easily made the second attempt from 55 yards away - a career long and the fourth longest in school history- and Auburn led 17-0 at halftime.

A Mississippi State facemask penalty on the opening kickoff of the second half helped Auburn pile on the points as the Tigers took over from the Bulldogs 48.

Irons ripped off one of his few long runs, a 17-yarder. Three plays later, Lester broke three tackles against the tiring Bulldogs defense on his way to a 20-yard touchdown run that put Auburn up 24-0.

Cox kept several Auburn drives alive with crucial completions on third down, usually to wide receiver Courtney Taylor, who had nine catches for 103 yards.

Cox began the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gabe McKenzie with 1:07 remaining in the first quarter and finished off his day with a 20-yard pass to Rodgeriqus Smith with 1:45 remaining in the third quarter to put the Tigers up 31-0.

He completed 18-of-27 for 249 yards with no interceptions.

As expected, the Mississippi State offense struggled. For the second consecutive week, the Bulldogs were essentially held out of their opponents' territory.

Mississippi State has advanced beyond the 50 four times this season. Turnovers accounted for two of those possessions, which resulted in missed field goals. And twice the Bulldogs have had the ball at their opponents' 45, earning that field position once in each loss.

Rutland, a redshirt freshman making his first start after the team's regular quarterback broke his collarbone, completed 12-of-25 passes for 82 yards.

The Tigers held the Bulldogs to 161 total yards and forced three turnovers. It was their sixth consecutive win over Mississippi State.

For more coverage of the Auburn Tigers, check out AuburnSports.com; for more coverage of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, check out BulldogBlitz.com.com.

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