You know it’s bad when the home team scores a long touchdown on their first play from scrimmage. You know it’s bad when your mascot is literally run out of the building by opposing players. You know it’s bad when you lose your starting quarterback and give up six scoring drives in the first half.
Yes, it was pretty bad for Joe Moorhead and Mississippi State and that all came well before the head coach drew an unsportsmanlike penalty to put the cherry on top of a 56-23 beatdown on the Plains Saturday night as No. 7 Auburn flexed a few muscles and showed they can’t be discounted in the College Football Playoff race either.
The Tigers looked like the offense many expected to see under Gus Malzahn this year with explosive rushing plays galore and a shockingly efficient evening throwing the ball from their freshman quarterback, Bo Nix. The youngster had his best outing of the still-young season in throwing for 335 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another 56 yards and a score. As impressive as the signal-caller was though, his supporting cast was even better at getting into space and making MSU pay with big plays or trips to the end zone.
Tailback JaTarvious Whitlow scored on AU’s first offensive snap and made two other trips across the goal line to go along with 55 yards on the night. Wideout Anthony Schwartz found pay dirt off a keeper on the ground while hauling in two catches for 67 yards while Seth Williams had a monster night through the air with eight receptions for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Kam Martin chipped in with a rushing TD as well.
In short, everything that could go right for Auburn’s offense, probably did aside from three lost fumbles that had zero impact on the final score.
As outclassed as Mississippi State seemed to be throughout the game, the team never could catch even the slightest of breaks to get back into the action. Quarterback Tommy Stevens exited yet again (lower leg injury) and was replaced by Garrett Shrader, who provided an early spark (209 yards, two touchdowns while rushing for 82 yards and a score) but couldn’t keep up with the pace set by the Tigers against a much better defense on the other side. The result sets up a long off week for the Bulldogs before their trip to Knoxville to take on Tennessee.
As for Auburn, they also hit the road for their next game and will head to the Swamp for what will be a huge battle against Florida next Saturday. That test should prove much tougher than the one they just passed against MSU as it’s the first of (as many as four) top 10 battles the Tigers have left on the docket. Based on how they played on the Plains, they’ll have a pretty good shot at doing some damage the rest of the way in those games to cause the College Football Playoff Selection Committee to take note.
If, that is, they haven’t already given the way Malzahn’s group is playing right now.