I think this team has arrived.
Auburn destroyed Mississippi State 56-23 tonight at Jordan-Hare Stadium to improve to 5-0 on the season and set up a huge top ten matchup next week against Florida. The Tigers scored 42 first half points, including five touchdowns on their first five drives, and the defense avenged last year’s effort in Starkville.
Bo Nix played his best game as an Auburn Tiger with 335 passing yards and 3 total touchdowns. He may have finally found the rhythm with Seth Williams, who had his best game as a Tiger as well with 8 catches, 161 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
Mississippi State opened the game with the ball and immediately went backward on three successive plays. After a short punt, Boobee Whitlow took Auburn’s first play for a 30-yard touchdown run and the rout was on. Auburn’s next drive spanned only 5 plays and ended in a short Nix touchdown run, but the Bulldogs fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Auburn completed a 2-play, 18-yard drive with an Anthony Schwartz touchdown run.
The shutout was ruined when backup quarterback Garrett Shrader entered the game for a banged up Tommy Stevens and led a touchdown drive to pull MSU within a 21-6 deficit, but Auburn went on a 78-yard drive for Boobee Whitlow’s second score of the night right after that. Leading 28-9, the defense clamped down a bit and allowed a Bulldog field goal, then watched as Nix led the fifth straight touchdown drive, this time finished on a 39-yard touchdown pass to Seth Williams.
Auburn finished the first half with a short Whitlow touchdown run (his third of the game), finishing a 92-yard drive and demoralizing Mississippi State completely. Leading 42-9 at halftime, Gus Malzahn didn’t let up. Out of the locker room, he kept his foot on the gas and Nix connected with Williams for a 32-yard score to put the Tigers up 49-9. Shrader would add another scoring pass, but Auburn answered on Nix’s final drive at quarterback as Kam Martin scooted in from 7 yards out to make the margin 56-16. Joey Gatewood got nearly the entire fourth quarter at quarterback, and D.J. Williams saw his first carries of the season during that time as well.
Despite the blowout, it wasn’t a perfect game, and that may be a good thing. There will be things to work on in the week before the Tigers head to Florida. First and foremost, Auburn has to work on ball security. The Tigers fumbled 4 times and lost 3 of them, which will come back to bite you in a closer ballgame. Also, it took a little longer for Auburn to adjust once Shrader entered the game, and he moved the ball with ease at times. Some of Auburn’s more inexperienced linebackers looked a bit lost with some of the RPO tactics that MSU employed as well.
However, it’s hard not to be extremely excited about what we saw tonight. If Bo Nix was off with his accuracy in the first third of the season, he got it back in spades tonight. Deep balls, intermediate routes, and the short passing game were all working. The running game was exceptional, and Nix seems to get more comfortable each week. The defense was its usual salty self, and the line also seems to improve with each coming Saturday.
Auburn improves to 2-0 in the SEC with the win, and makes one of the more impressive statements in the conference so far during this young season. Next weekend will be the biggest game of the year thus far as the Tigers head to Gainesville for a top ten showdown with the Florida Gators. Kickoff comes at 2:30 pm CST on CBS. War Eagle!