Head coach Gus Malzahn took over the playcalling duties and the Auburn Tigers went off on Friday.
With a potent combination of run and pass, Auburn flattened Purdue 63-14 on Friday in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans, in Nashville.
In the first meeting between the programs, Auburn played with purpose from the opening kickoff and finished the 2018 season in impressive fashion. Their final 8-5 record is the third such finish in six years under Malzahn.
The Tigers were focused and determined on both sides of the football, punishing the outmanned Boilermakers (6-7) with an unrelenting offense that scored on their first seven possessions. Auburn put the game out of reach midway through the first quarter.
The Tigers led 56-7 at halftime. It was the most points ever scored in the first half of any FBS bowl game. After two quarters, the Tigers had already set a Music City Bowl scoring record and set an Auburn program record for points scored in a bowl game. Auburn came within seven points of the NCAA all-time bowl scoring record.
They played in a bowl for the sixth consecutive season under Malzahn, but came out with very different results. Auburn had won only once before in the postseason under Malzahn, capturing the 2015 Birmingham Bowl.
Running back Boobee Whitlow scored three touchdowns over the first eight minutes of the game, staking the Tigers to a 21-0 lead before Purdue could gain its footing. Then WR Darius Slayton added three more first-half touchdowns as the Tigers piled on.
Whitlow capped the opening drive with a 66-yard catch-and-run with a pass from QB Jarrett Stidham.
The Tigers then drove 87 yards in nine plays with Whitlow, from the wildcat formation, scoring on a 2-yard run. Once again, from the wildcat formation, he added a 1-yard touchdown run three plays after DB Javaris Davis came up with his second interception of the season, picking off Purdue QB David Blough and returning it 15 yards to the Boilermakers 18-yard line.
Stidham wasted little time answering Purdue’s first-quarter touchdown, unloading a 74-yard touchdown strike to a wide open Slayton, and the Tigers led 28-7.
Defensive lineman Derrick Brown stopped Purdue RB Markell Jones for no gain on a fourth-and-1 play at the Boilers’ 44-yard line as a desperate Purdue offense tried in vain to get back in the game. Two plays later, Slayton took a screen pass from Stidham, who was sacked on the previous play, and outraced the Purdue defense down the sidelines, 52 yards untouched. Auburn led 35-7 just a couple of minutes into the second quarter.
As effective as the Auburn offense was, the Tigers defense was equally dominant. Defensive lineman Tyrone Truesdell batted a Blough pass into the waiting arms of Auburn teammate and fellow DL Big Kat Bryant, who completed a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown. With 12:29 to play in the second quarter, Auburn’s lead ballooned to 42-7.
It was a little more difficult on Auburn’s sixth offensive drive of the game. The Tigers were forced to convert two fourth-down plays to complete a 12-play, 65-yard touchdown drive. With 5:36 to play in the second quarter, RB Anthony Schwartz capped the march with a 6-yard run and the Tigers matched West Virginia’s Music City Bowl record for points scored in its 49-38 victory over Ole Miss in 2000.
The Tigers set the scoring mark on their next drive. Stidham threw 34 yards to Slayton for the score.
They made it look easy. Stidham completed 13 of 18 first-half passes for 335 yards and four touchdowns. Slayton was on the receiving end of three of those and finished the first two quarters with three catches for 160 yards.
And it didn’t stop there. Auburn drove 78 yards in 12 plays on its first possession of the second half with Stidham tossing a shovel pass to Ryan Davis, who took it 5 yards to the end zone and a 63-7 lead. The touchdown broke the SEC record for points scored in a bowl game, held by Alabama in a 61-6 thrashing of Syracuse at the 1953 Orange Bowl.
Stidham’s final game at Auburn was done with five minutes left in the third quarter. In his final game as a Tiger, Stidham threw for 373 yards and five touchdowns, completing 15 of 21 passes, before taking his final bow to cheers from Auburn fans making the trek.