The Auburn Tigers (4-4, 1-4) hosted the Mississippi State Bulldogs (1-4, 4-4) earning their first win of SEC play 27-13 ending a four-game skid. The Tigers were not without errors but were, for the most part, firing on all cylinders.
“Man it was obviously a great day to win our first SEC game here” Freeze continued “Our kids and our staff continue to work and I think we saw some signs today of us getting better at some things”
The Auburn offense was functioning on a level we have yet to see in SEC play, especially in the first half. Payton Thorne was the key to this success with his fantastic performance. Thorne threw 26 times completing 20 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns. Thorne found 11 plus receivers in the matchup enabling the offense to put up a fantastic 24 first-half points. Thorne was the one to throw the ball today as Ashford took a backseat role running the ball twice for eight yards. Thorne getting into a rhythm and taking the majority of snaps was certainly of benefit to the offense.
“I would say so,” Thorne said when asked if he felt like he was able to get into more of a rhythm offensively. “I thought both showed signs this week in practice of improvement” Freeze added “he just started hot you know we felt good about our plan. We had a different plan for Robbie too but just never really got to it”
A large amount of Auburn’s success on offense early came from being able to push the ball down the field coupled with explosive plays both through the air and on the ground. Running back star Jarquez Hunter was a workhorse with 17 carries for 144 yards, he contributed to the explosive plays with a 21-yard reception setting up a Auburn score and a 50-yard run. Thorne got in on the explosive plays finding Shane Hooks for a 28-yard touchdown then hitting Ja’varrius Johnson for a 45-yard touchdown.
“It’s built into our game plan…the defense is gonna give it to us and we got to take it you know” Thorne commented on the explosive plays “helps us gain momentum” Jarquez Hunter credited his offensive prowess to hard work “I try to get better at practice. If I practice hard, I play hard. That's where it starts."
It was another stellar performance from the defense today as they held the Bulldogs to just 13 points over the four quarters of play holding them to just 161 passing yards and one touchdown the secondary came up huge again for the Tigers including a Zion Pucket interception in a critical spot to reclaim momentum in the second half. Eugene Asante has carved out a spot for himself amongst the stars of this league and he showed out again tonight with ten total tackles, eight of which were solo.
“We kept on them (Mississippi State) defensively for three quarters. Coming in as a defense, we all met together and had the mindset of, ‘Scoring teams don’t beat us.’ Keionte Scott said after the win, Eugene Asante attributed the success to the staff “Our coaches. I’m so grateful to Coach (Ron) Roberts and all he does to prepare us. He trusts in us and believes in us. You can see it in the meetings and everything. He cares about us as human beings. I want to go lay it all out on the line for him.”
The win comes much needed as the Tigers enter the easier stretch of their schedule. Bowl game hopes and morale were boosted today as the Tigers took the pressure off and got the coveted SEC win after coming up just short in the first few games of league play. The team got a taste of winning and they likely will continue to do so as they pursue postseason play later this year.
“Hope that it gives us a lot of confidence and maybe a little swagger to go play with confidence on the road,” Coach Freeze said, “It was a refreshing feeling going back into the locker room with a win. I know how much the guys were hungry for this win and how much we put into this game. Guys really do care about going out there and performing.” Asante added about the win.
Auburn will now go on a two-week road trip for matchups they will likely be favored in. No win comes easy in the SEC but winning just two of the remaining four games would mean a bowl appearance for the Tigers in Freeze’s first year on the Plains.
“We’ve got two games that obviously you look at and think we can win them but as I know from being in this league before you can also lose them and confidence is a huge factor and key in that,” Freeze said after the win.
The Tigers will be back in action on Saturday, November 4 against the Vanderbilt Commodores at 3 p.m. CT in Nashville, and will be televised on the SECN.