Big plays power No. 13 Auburn over No. 24 Miss State 49-10
AUBURN (AP) — Kerryon Johnson sprinted 59 yards on the game’s third play, and Auburn kept dropping an avalanche of big gains on Mississippi State.
Jarrett Stidham passed for 264 yards and two touchdowns, and Johnson ran for three scores to lead the 13th-ranked Tigers to a 49-10 victory over 24th-ranked Mississippi State on Saturday night.
Tack on plays of 67, 57, 52, 49 and 47 yards, and Johnson’s early run was just a table setter.
“That’s what we’ve been working on, those big plays down the field,” he said. “That’s hard on defenses.”
It certainly was on the Bulldogs.
The Tigers (4-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) established themselves as the most likely challenger to No. 1 Alabama in the Western Division with the explosive offensive performance. The Bulldogs (3-2, 1-2) have lost two straight lopsided games since blowing out LSU to start a string of three matchups with Top 15 teams.
Stidham launched a handful of deep balls for Auburn, including a 47-yard touchdown to a wide-open Will Hastings and a 57-yarder to Eli Stove from his own end zone. He wound up 13-of-16 passing and also had a 49-yard reverse pass to Darius Slayton after lining up at receiver.
“He’s repped that 20 or 30 times, and it was wide open,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.
Johnson gained 116 yards in a strong follow-up to his five-touchdown effort in a 51-14 romp over Missouri. It’s the first time since 1987 that Auburn has beaten back-to-back SEC opponents by 30-plus points.
“I think we’re jelling at the right time,” Stidham said.
Backup quarterback Malik Willis got into the act with a 67-yard run in the final minutes, thrilling the smattering of fans still remaining.
Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald passed for 157 yards and ran for 56 but was intercepted twice. The Bulldogs had seven false start penalties.
“We did everything you shouldn’t do when you come on the road to win,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said.
The Bulldogs had two touchdowns overturned on replay in the first half, ultimately scoring after a ruling that Fitzgerald was tackled inside the 1. Earlier, Jeffery Simmons knocked the ball loose from Stidham and Montez Sweat picked it up and took it to the end zone.
The ball had been blown dead after the official called it an incomplete pass. Replay ruled it a fumble and gave it to Mississippi State at Auburn’s 32, but the Bulldogs wound up only with a field goal.
“It was a momentum killer,” Simmons said. “I guess the referee made a good call on it. But we’ve got to move on from it. Once it’s called, it’s called.”
Auburn gained 511 yards on just 56 plays. Mississippi State had 351 yards on 84 plays.
Mississippi State: Moved the ball at times but went 5 of 19 on third down and converted just two of six fourth-down attempts. That included a failed fake punt in the first half. Fitzgerald completed 13 of 33 passes and ran 13 times.
Auburn: The defense kept up its strong play while offensively Auburn had seven offensive plays of 30-plus yards. That doesn’t even count Javaris Davis’ 37-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Stidham set up one score with the long ball to Slayton after Johnson took a direct snap and Stidham got the ball on a reverse.
FOURTH & GO
Auburn also had a fourth-down gamble, with good results. Johnson scored on a fourth-down run in the first quarter. Auburn initially lined up to kick before Malzahn called a timeout amid boos from the crowd, and decided to go for it.
Mississippi State has an open date before hosting BYU on Oct. 14.
Auburn hosts Mississippi in another SEC West game.
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