Anthony Schwartz picked his way past the pylon and then held the ball up in the end zone for the cheering fans to see.
They threw their hands up into the evening sky again. Auburn was up three scores before sunset. The band struck up another song. The Tigers danced to their music on into the night.
No. 7 Auburn blasted Mississippi State 56-23 on Saturday night in front of a sold-out Jordan-Hare Stadium, charging to 5-0 and 2-0 in SEC play on the way down to Florida.
Schwartz’s touchdown put Auburn up 21-0 just more than six minutes into the game. It was Auburn’s night from the start. JaTarvious Whitlow ran in a 30-yard touchdown on Auburn’s first snap on offense, and Bo Nix dove over the goal line and slid over the grass in the end zone moments later to set up the Schwartz touchdown, all before night even fell over Jordan-Hare after a 6 p.m. kickoff.
Auburn led 42-9 at the half. Auburn’s offense scored touchdowns on all five of its first five series, and on seven of its first eight. Whitlow scored his third touchdown of the game with 12 seconds left in the second quarter to send the Tigers into the locker room up 33 points — and well on their way to avenging a frustrating loss last year at Mississippi State.
“It’s a big statement,” Schwartz said, just steps out of the locker room after celebrating the win. Mississippi State beat Auburn 23-9 last year in Starkville. “Mississippi State’s a great team, a great defense, a great physical team.
“And especially, last year, when they embarrassed us — I don’t want to say it, but: We just gave it back to them.”
Auburn’s offense rolled up 578 yards in the romp. Bo Nix fired for 335 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-21 passing, while adding 56 rushing yards and that first-quarter score on the ground.
Star sophomore receiver Seth Williams caught eight passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Whitlow rolled up three touchdowns and 55 yards on 10 carries, with all but one taken before halftime.
“I think tonight we played our best game by far,” Nix said. “We showed it, and the stat line and score showed it.”
Yes, Auburn looked like it’s clicking on all cylinders under head coach Gus Malzahn going into October, and going into a date with fate in ‘The Swamp.’
Auburn next travels to Florida for a sure-to-be top-10 showdown in Gainesville next Saturday. No. 9 Florida beat Towson to get to 5-0 on Saturday afternoon.
Against Mississippi State, the Auburn defense flexed its muscle over the Bulldogs from the first whistle, and after an opening three-and-out for Mississippi State in front of a packed and roaring Jordan-Hare, Christian Tutt’s 18-yard return from near midfield set up Whitlow’s first touchdown.
After another three-and-out, Nix scored on a mesh-read keeper to make it 14-0 with 9:46 left in the first quarter — and then, after Auburn forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Schwartz raced around the Bulldogs defense on an end-around for his score on a 13-yard run, adding another touchdown just 47 seconds after the last and putting Auburn up 21-0 with 8:59 still hanging on the first-quarter clock.
Auburn led 49-9 in the third after a 32-yard touchdown pass from Nix to Williams.
Auburn rolled up 328 yards in the first half alone.
“We’re back to being an Auburn offense,” Williams said. “This is what Auburn is about — fast pace and scoring touchdowns.
“That’s what Malzahn likes to do, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Mississippi State scored its only first-half touchdown just after Auburn went up 21-0, making it 21-6, but Auburn answered right back with a three-yard Whitlow touchdown early in the second quarter to make it a three-score game again at 28-6.
Auburn hardly looked back from there.
“Overall, I’m just real proud of our team,” Malzahn said. “We had a big, emotional win last week on the road and it would’ve been real easy to let up, it would have been real easy to look forward maybe the next game, and our guys didn’t do that. They played their best football game as a team to date tonight.”