Maybe it was the 10-game losing streak for Auburn that made the more than 27 minutes that Mississippi State led this game seem like so much longer. Or maybe it was when they had that lead, with time slipping away and Auburn trailing with less than a minute left.
But then Nick Marshall hit C.J. Uzomah on an 11-yard pass for his second touchdown of the night. That came with 10 seconds left on Auburn's last-gasp drive, which covered 88 yards in a minute and 46 seconds. And just like that, Marshall -- who went 6-of-8 on the final drive for 66 yards and also rushed for another 17 yards -- went from being potentially a goat yet again to being a hero.
That wiped out what had been a pretty good game by Mississippi State. Dak Prescott was 15-of-28 for 213 yards passing and added 133 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 22 carries. Mississippi State had the edge in total yardage until the final drive that put Auburn ahead. The defense, meanwhile, will have to come up for answers after allowing Auburn to average more than 6.5 yards a play.
And Dan Mullen will likely have to start coming up with answers as well. The Bulldogs are now 1-2, and the odds for a bowl game are already beginning to look grim. They are perfectly capable of winning three of their next four, the exception being LSU, but then Mississippi State faces a brutal stretch of games that seems them play at South Carolina, at Texas A&M, against Alabama, at Arkansas and against Ole Miss. Winning one of those games is probably better than a 50-50 proposition. Winning two of them is harder to see. We could be seeing the beginning of the end of the Mullen Era in Starkville.
But the best of the Gus Malzahn Era might be yet to come. The losing streak is over, and the Tigers' chances for the postseason look bright indeed. Wins against Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic get them within striking distance, meaning that one of the swing games against Ole Miss, at Arkansas or at Tennessee could put them over the top. Winning two or three would make for a wildly successful first season for Malzahn. And maybe they can even win some of those games with more than 10 seconds left.