Justin Johnson

Associated Press

Offense clicks for No. 13 Auburn in waltz over No. 24 Mississippi State

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When it all clicks, this is what a Gus Malzahn team is supposed to look like.

The 13th-ranked Tigers got an ultra-efficient night from quarterback Jarrett Stidham, a 100-yard effort from running back Kerryon Johnson and a ferocious defensive effort to pound No. 24 Mississippi State 49-10 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn accepted the ball to open the game and immediately raced 75 yards in seven plays — all of them runs. Johnson had the key run, a 59-yarder to take the ball from the Auburn 36-yard line to the Mississippi State 5, and the finisher, a 1-yard plunge. After a fumble on their next possession, Auburn made atonement by again racing nearly the length of the field. This time they moved 77 yards in five snaps, culminating in a 7-yard strike from Stidham to Ryan Davis.

Stidham’s second touchdown pass, a 47-yard strike to Will Hastings, effectively put the game out of reach, staking Auburn to a 21-3 lead with 13:38 left in the second quarter.

The Bullodgs posted their best offensive possession of the night in their final touch of the first half, a 77-yard march capped by a Nick Fitzgerald 5-yard toss to Justin Johnson.

Auburn (4-1, 2-0 SEC) shut the door for good on its first possession of the second half. Just like the start of the game, the Tigers moved the length of the field — literally this time, moving a full 99 yards — to set up a 2-yard Johnson plunge. Johnson added one more 1-yard burst early in the fourth quarter and Javaris Davis put the exclamation point on the night with a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown on the next possession. Backup quarterback Malik Willis completed the scoring with a 67-yard scoring dash with 3:04 to play.

The Tigers’ offense played its best night of the season, as Stidham connected on 13-of-16 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns while Johnson carried 23 times for 116 yards and three scores. The defense punished Fitzgerald throughout the night, limiting him to 13-of-33 passing for 157 yards with a touchdown and two interception plus 13 carries for a hard-earned 56 yards.

For Mississippi State (3-2, 1-2 SEC) the loss serves as a severe and bruising humbling. The Bulldogs were riding high after a 37-7 blowout of LSU in Starkville — a win that has aged like a sippy cup of milk left in your child’s car seat on a July afternoon — Mississippi State has lost consecutive games to top-15 opponents Georgia and Auburn by a combined score of 80-13.

This was a game that looks as we sit here five weeks into the season as a battle for the right to be the second-best team in the SEC West, and it’s clear that Auburn holds that distinction. And with a performance like this, No. 2 may not be all Auburn has to settle for.

Auburn handling Mississippi State at the break

Associated Press
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In a game that looks as we sit here on Sept. 30 every bit like a Second Place Game in the SEC West, Auburn appears to have a clear advantage. The Tigers hold a 21-10 lead over Mississippi State at the break at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn accepted the ball to open the game and immediately raced 75 yards in seven plays — all of them runs. Kerryon Johnson had the key run, a 59-yarder to take the ball from the Auburn 36-yard line to the Mississippi State 5, and the finisher, a 1-yard plunge. After a fumble on their next possession, Auburn made atonement by again racing nearly the length of the field. This time they moved 77 yards in five snaps, culminating in a 7-yard strike from Jarrett Stidham to Ryan Davis.

The Tigers’ third score also came from Stidham’s arm, this time on the first play of a drive, a 47-yard connection to Will Hastings. Stidham is 8-of-10 for 148 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, while Johnson led the Tigers on the ground with 102 yards on 14 carries.

Mississippi State’s offense finally came alive on its final possession of the half. Nick Fitzgerald appeared to race in from 17 yards out at the 2:37 mark of the second quarter, but the ball was pulled back to the 1-foot line upon review. Fitzgerald lost yardage on first-and-goal, and second-and-goal was moved back to the 5-yard line after a false start. The Bulldogs’ second down play went for no gain, but Fitzgerald finally put Mississippi State in the end zone on third-and-goal with a 5-yard toss to Justin Johnson with 59 seconds left. It was the Bulldogs’ first touchdown in six quarters and counting of this top-15 road trip against Georgia and Auburn. Fitzgerald closed the half hitting 8-of-17 passes for 87 yards while rushing five times for 24 yards.

Mississippi State will receive to open the second half.