Jarrett Stidham threw two touchdowns and the Auburn defense bottled up a potent Mississippi State offense as the No. 13 Tigers defeated the No. 24 Bulldogs 49-10 on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.
The Tigers (4-1, 2-0 SEC West) put the game out of reach early in the third quarter when Kerryon Johnson rushed for a 1-yard score for a 35-10 Auburn lead. Stidham completed a 52-yard pass to Kyle Davis to set up Johnson’s third score of the game.
Three plays after Johnson’s touchdown, Javaris Davis intercepted Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and returned the ball 37 yards to put the Tigers up 42-10.
Stidham, who started his career at Baylor, completed 13 of 16 attempts for 264 yards while Johnson finished with 116 rushing yards on 23 carries.
Fitzgerald was under pressure all day and completed just 13 of 33 pass attempts for 157 yards and one touchdown. He threw two interceptions. He also was the leading rusher for MSU with 56 yards.
The Bulldogs (3-2, 1-2) came into the game averaging 36.5 points per game. Mississippi State also was averaging 267.5 yards per game on the ground (13th in the nation).
The MSU defense was a legitimate top 10 in total defense (255.5 yards per game) and fifth in passing yards allowed (129 yards per game).
Auburn didn’t read those clippings. The Tigers compiled 511 yards of total offense while holding the Bulldogs vaunted rushing attack to just 199 yards. Mississippi State finished with 351 total yards.
The Tigers drove 99 yards on their first possession of the second half to take a 28-10 lead. After forcing Mississippi State to punt, the Bulldogs downed the ball on the 1-foot line. Stidham connected with Eli Stove for a 57-yard pass on the first play. Then on third-and-3, Stove ran 30 yards to the MSU 5-yard line setting up Johnson for his second touchdown of the day.
Under pressure all day, Fitzgerald found Justin Johnson with less than a minute to go in the half to get Mississippi State back in the game, 21-10.
A review reversed a Fitzgerald run for a score and put the ball on the 1-foot line. The Bulldogs’ fourth false start of the half put the ball back on the 6-yard line before Fitzgerald hooked up with Johnson.
Stidham completed 5 of 6 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown while leading the Tigers to a 14-3 lead after the first quarter. The offensive line opened huge holes for Johnson, who opened the scoring with 1-yard rushing touchdown on Auburn’s first possession.
The key play in first quarter came on the Tigers’ next possession when Stidham fumbled on a hit by Jeffery Simmons. Defensive lineman Montez Sweat recovered the loose ball and rumbled into the end zone for an apparent score.
But the officials blew the play dead, thinking it was an incomplete pass. A review overturned the incomplete call but could only award the ball to the Bulldogs at the spot of recovery. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was livid.
The Bulldogs then moved the ball only 10 yards on eight plays, able to salvage a 40-yard Jace Christmann field goal to make the score 7-3.
Undaunted by his fumble, Stidham kept the pressure on the Bulldogs’ defense. He drove the Tigers 77 yards in less than two minutes and connected with Ryan Davis for a 7-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
Stidham found Will Hastings from 47 yards out early in the second quarter for a 21-3 lead.
NOTES: The two teams were meeting for the 91st time with Auburn holding a sizable 62-26-2 advantage. Mississippi State had won three of the past five meetings. ... The Bulldogs’ fake punt early in the second quarter came up short and gave Auburn the ball on the MSU 31-yard line. But the MSU defense came up strong and forced a field-goal attempt, which Auburn missed when the ball hit the upright. ... Mississippi State was playing its third straight ranked SEC opponent. ... Auburn entered the game with a 15-1 record when ranked under Gus Malzahn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. ... Junior RB Kamryn Pettway and senior LB Tre’ Williams both were in uniform for Auburn after missing last week’s 51-14 win over Missouri.