Auburn offense erupts in rout of Miss State

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AUBURN — Mississippi State embarrassed Auburn in Starkville last season. On Saturday night the Tigers returned the favor — and then some. JaTarvious Whitlow set the tone on Auburn’s fist offensive play, going 30 yards for a touchdown. It only got worse from there for the Bulldogs, who were manhandled from start to finish in a 56-23 Auburn victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn’s offense, which has been overshadowed by the defense this season, made strides against Mississippi State, totaling 578 yards behind a stellar performance from quarterback Bo Nix. The freshman completed 16 of 21 passes for 335 yards and a pair of touchdown passes — both to Seth Williams, who hauled in eight receptions for 161 yards. Nix also led the Tigers on the ground, rushing for 56 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. "I'm really proud of our team," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "We had a big emotional win (over Texas A&M) last week on the road and it would have been really easy to let up. It would have been real easy to maybe look forward to the next game, and our guys didn't do that and they played their best football game as a team to date tonight." The Tigers, who are 5-0 for the first time since 2014, wasted no time putting Mississippi State away. Auburn scored 21 points before the teams reached the midway point of the opening quarter. "To come out and spot them 21 before the band even gets in their seats, you don't give yourself a chance," Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead said. Nix followed Whitlow’s opening touchdown run with a 9-yard scamper into the end zone with 9:46 remaining in the first quarter. Anthony Schwartz struck with a 13-yard run two plays after Mississippi State fumbled away the kickoff for a 21-0 lead at the 8:59 mark.

Whitlow scored three first-half touchdowns. He added a 3-yard run for a 28-6 Auburn lead early in the second quarter. Nix connected with Williams on a 39-yard touchdown with 5:33 left in the half and Whitlow went in from 3 yards out in the waning seconds as Auburn build an insurmountable 42-9 halftime lead. The Tigers got touchdowns in both the third and fourth quarters. Nix hit Williams for a 32-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter and Kam Martin scored from 7 yards out early in the fourth quarter for a 56-16 lead. Last season Auburn took a No. 8 ranking into Starkville. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and crew ran at will on the Tigers, picking up 359 yards on 57 carries in a 23-9 win. The loss served as the beginning of the end for an Auburn team that went 3-4 in its last seven regular-season games. Mississippi State rushed for just 118 yards on 38 carries this time around. On Saturday, Auburn resembled the team that put 63 points on the scoreboard in last year’s Music City Bowl against Purdue. Auburn's 42 first-half points against Mississippi State marked its most in an SEC half since scoring 42 against Vanderbilt in 1990. "We're back to being an Auburn offense," Williams said. "This is what Auburn is about — fast-paced and scoring touchdowns. That's what Malzahn likes to do, so that's what we're doing." Next up for the Tigers is a top 10 showdown with No. 9 Florida (5-0) in Gainesville next Saturday. The teams last played in 2011 with Auburn winning 17-6. The Tigers won the last meeting in Gainesville, upsetting the fourth-ranked Gators 20-17 in 2007.