AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Payton Thorne passed for 230 yards and three first-half touchdowns and Jarquez Hunter ran for a season-high 144 yards to lead Auburn to a 27-13 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday.
The Tigers (4-4, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) snapped a four-game skid and got their first league win under coach Hugh Freeze after racing to a 24-3 halftime lead, their biggest in an SEC game in four years.
Thorne had five touchdown passes in the first seven games since transferring from Michigan State but delivered his best game against an FBS team with the Tigers. He completed 20 of 26 passes and ran for 38 yards.
Hunter got his first 100-yard game this season after ripping off runs of 17 and 49 yards on Auburn’s final drive.
The Bulldogs (4-4, 1-4) started Mike Wright at quarterback for the second straight game with Will Rogers sidelined by a left shoulder injury. Leading rusher Jo’Quavious Marks also sat out the game.
Wright was 16-of-32 passing for 161 yards and ran for another 63 yards. He hit Zavion Thomas for a 14-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs had two late drives into Auburn territory halted by an interception and a fourth-down incompletion.
Thomas had nine catches for 112 yards. His left foot landed out of bounds on a throw into the end zone in the final minutes that could have kept the Bulldogs alive.
Thorne passed for 192 yards in the first half, easily topping his previous season high against a FBS competition (102 against LSU).
That included touchdown passes of 27 yards to Shane Hooks and 45 to Ja’Varrius Johnson in the first quarter. Thorne punctuated the half with a 7-yard score to tailback Jeremiah Cobb with 9 seconds left to take the three-touchdown lead into the locker room.
It was Auburn’s largest halftime lead against an SEC team since going up by 33 against Mississippi State in 2019.
The Bulldogs had a chance to make it a one-score game late in the first half. But Wright slipped and was tackled for a loss on fourth and 1 from the Tigers’ 30.
Mississippi St: The offensive struggles continued in Rogers’ absence, but a defense that spearheaded a 7-3 win last weekend gave up an array of big first-half plays to an offense that had been having its own issues.
Auburn: A passing game that had been mostly dormant against FBS competition came to life in the first half — then stalled again. The Tigers’ 301 first-half yards was more than they managed in four quarters against LSU (293) and Mississippi (275) the past two games. They finished with 416 and 63 came on that game-ending drive.
Mississippi State hosts Kentucky on Saturday.
Auburn visits Vanderbilt on Saturday.
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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football