War Eagle Extra

‘Mentally tough’ Auburn WR Tony Stevens turns page on costly error, helps offense jump all over Mississippi State

AP

Tony Stevens didn’t need any of Auburn’s coaches to tell him he made a mistake.

Stevens bobbled what should have been a first down catch on the opening possession of Saturday’s game at Mississippi State.

The fact that the ball bounced right off Stevens’ hands right into the outstretched arms of a defender magnified the error.

Mississippi State was unable to turn the turnover into any points, but Stevens knew he had to make up for the mistake anyway.

“I messed up on that first drive, when I missed the ball and they picked it off so I had to bounce back,” Stevens said.

Or as he later put it, “get on to business.”

Stevens did just that on Auburn’s second drive catching a pass in coverage down MSU’s sideline for a 36-yard gain.

“I knew he’s mentally tough,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He’s always ready to go. He knew he made a mistake. He said he would bounce back and I knew he would do that.”

It’s why Malzahn just patted Stevens on the butt after the interception and moved on. It was the same attitude quarterback Sean White had about Stevens’ mistake.

“I have all the confidence in Tony,” White said.

White targeted Stevens in big moments throughout the 38-14 win. The 6-foot-4, 212-pounder’s first reception set up Auburn’s first touchdown.

Stevens caught a pass similar to the one he dropped on Auburn’s ensuing drive to convert a third-and-seven.

“The coaches got trust in me, teammates trust me,” Stevens said. “They know I can make that play.”

Stevens has been White’s go-to receiver this season by a wide margin. The Florida native has 24 catches this season for 408 yards with four touchdowns. The next leading receiver on the team is Kyle Davis with 212 yards.

While Auburn’s young receivers continue to look more and more comfortable, no one sees Stevens role decreasing anytime soon.

“We talked about for us to be good on offense, Tony really needs to take that next step,” Malzahn said last week. “I think that he is in the process of doing that. He’s starting to get confidence. I can tell that Sean is starting to get confidence in him.”

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