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Game Superlatives: Auburn 63, Alabama State 9

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The post-Washington, pre-LSU blues = AVOIDED.

NCAA Football: Alabama State at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday was a pretty easy win, as Auburn scored 21 in the first quarter, led 42-0 before allowing a point, and could’ve scored 100 if they’d really tried. Final: 63-9 in the new I-85 Rivalry. Check the highlights.

Gus Malzahn, who’s usually pretty mum in general, didn’t have much in the way of disappointment after this game. “Pretty pleased” means “Yeah, it was good,” when you get it from this head coach. Check out his postgame comments where he mainly gives updates on the injury status of several guys. Nobody’s in real big danger. Darius Slayton was held out as a precaution, Will Hastings and Eli Stove got to play sparingly after those spring ACL injuries, and some other guys have minor nicks and bruises that won’t limit their time. Easy.

Let’s get to the winners from last night...

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME

You could go in several different directions with this one — Boobee Whitlow cracked 100 yards as he stutter-stepped his way past the Hornets (14 carries, 122 yards) and Shaun Shivers did the same but with speed and burst instead (13 carries, 117 yards, 1 TD) — but we’re taking the freshman. The other one.

Anthony Schwartz gets the honor tonight after his fantastic entrance to college football against the Hornets. We got a little tease with him on the field last week against Washington, but he never got to handle the ball. Last night was a different story, as he got touches in the running and passing game, scoring touchdowns in both. His speed was evident from his first carry, and he flat-out ran away from the defensive back on his 57-yard touchdown pass from Jarrett Stidham.

To make things more interesting, he’s got some moves as well. On his second touchdown of the night, he took a little reverse pitch from Stidham and went around the left end, cruising through defenders on his way to the end zone for a 23-yard score. Then he got clotheslined by Will Hastings on the celebration under the goal post.

It’s no secret that Gus isn’t crazy about playing freshmen, but I think he’s coming around to the idea, especially if they play like Schwartz did last night. To be honest, we see teams like Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State throwing freshmen onto the field, where they excel. It helps recruiting to see a guy come in and contribute immediately, and now that Auburn’s getting into the game it’s just nice to see.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME

How about a guy that had zero tackles getting this honor?

It’s easy if you also had two interceptions, with one turning into a pick six.

That’s why Daniel Thomas is the easy choice tonight.

Auburn got started a little slowly on both sides of the ball, going three-and-out to start on offense, and allowing a 51-yard pass to the Hornets after fumbling the ball in the first quarter. No matter, though. Jarrett Stidham’s touchdown to Anthony Schwartz late in the first quarter put Auburn up 14-0, and then Daniel Thomas erased any hopes of a close game by picking off the first pass of the next drive and returning it 29 yards for a touchdown. Boom, 21-0 Auburn. Ballgame.

Later on, he jumped what was just a quick pass to the right to get the ball in the hands of the receiver and picked off the pass. if he’d kept his feet, it would’ve been another pick six. Either way, it was his second pick. It’s his second game with two interceptions after he snagged two turnovers from Jalen Hurts in the 2016 Iron Bowl. FORESHADOWING FOR THIS NOVEMBER IN TUSCALOOSA, HMM????

PLAY OF THE GAME

We’d already had touchdowns on offense and defense, so why not add in the third phase of the game?

Auburn led 28-0 midway through the second quarter before forcing the Hornets to punt once more from their own 22-yard line. The Tigers put the total press on, and found a hole in the middle of the protection, with Jamien Sherwood getting a paw up to block the kick.

Devan Barrett scooped up the loose ball and dove into the end zone (looking like Tre Smith, mind you), to put Auburn up 35-0. It was just another bit of domination, but it was nice to see the jailbreak work. Sherwood almost took Defensive Player of the Game honors after his four tackles, one interception, one pass breakup, one punt block night, but Thomas’ two picks take the cake.

It’s also interesting to see the career trajectory of Devan Barrett. He’s moved positions twice now after playing tailback and receiver. Now he’s working at corner, and with the position change, was able to contribute on special teams with the touchdown.

HONORABLE MENTION

  • Jarrett Stidham’s 57-yard touchdown to Anthony Schwartz was one of those looping things of beauty, and watching Schwartz actually have to slow down a tad to catch it just shows you how fast he actually is. I loved his celebration afterward, heading into the fans in the North end zone.
  • This is more of a drive than a play, but give me Shaun Shivers four straight carries on his touchdown drive. He went for 10, 16, and 26 yards before getting in from just a couple yards out for his first career touchdown. Did it all himself on that drive.
  • Daniel Thomas’ second interception of the night was really impressive. He showed the recognition of the play, avoided the blocker, got between the quarterback and the receiver, snagged a tough pass, and kept possession. It really was sudden and showed how far he’s come as a player since his freshman year in 2016.

There’s a true youth movement in Auburn right now, everyone.

Watch out, War Eagle.