STARKVILLE, Miss. — Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway has big, broad shoulders and a knack for finding room to run.
So when the 6-foot, 240-pound sophomore had some early success against Mississippi State, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn made sure he got the ball again and again and again.
The end result was a career day for Pettway and an easy 38-14 victory for the Tigers over Mississippi State on Saturday. Pettway finished with career highs in rushing yards (169), touchdowns (3) and carries (39).
Auburn quarterback Sean White threw for 204 yards and a touchdown, but the most effective thing he did all day was simply turn and had the ball to Pettway, who ran over, around and through an overmatched Mississippi State defense.
“He’s a beast of a running back,” White said. “He’s just a tough runner. He’ll get the tough yards. It might not always be pretty, but he’s a really good asset for us to have.”
Pettway thrived despite the heavy workload, running for 125 yards and three touchdowns in the first half as Auburn built a 35-0 lead.
His role increased after starting running back Kerryon Johnson suffered a right ankle injury in the first quarter and didn’t return. Malzahn said he hoped Johnson’s injury wasn’t serious.
Auburn (4-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) has won three straight and now gets two weeks to rest before facing Arkansas on Oct. 22.
“We really like the momentum we have,” Malzahn said. “We’ve talked about getting better each week and we’ve done that. We’re in a good spot.”
Mississippi State (2-3, 1-2) actually had a little momentum in the game’s opening minutes when Kivon Coman intercepted a deflected pass to give the Bulldogs’ great field position at the Auburn 19. But five plays later, Westin Graves missed a 28-yard field goal.
It only got worse for Mississippi State.
Auburn scored touchdowns on five of its next seven drives to take control of the game. By late in the second quarter, boos could be heard from the home crowd as Mississippi State’s struggling offense took the field.
Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns, but almost all that damage came in the second half when Auburn already had control of the game.
“I wish there was one thing I could point my finger to and say that was it,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “But there’s not. It was a lot of things.”
Fitzgerald also led Mississippi State with 61 yards rushing. Mississippi State faces a quick turnaround — the Bulldogs have to play at BYU on Friday.
“Losing is never fun and that kind of loss is pretty depressing I guess,” Fitzgerald said. “But have your pity party now and tomorrow get back to work.”
Auburn: The Tigers showed they might be a factor in the SEC Western Division race after an impressive win. Even after Johnson’s injury early in the game, Pettway was able to anchor the running game. White might not be flashy at quarterback, but he’s consistent and makes good decisions.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs’ streak of making the postseason in six straight seasons appears to be in serious jeopardy. The offense doesn’t have many playmakers and the defense was overwhelmed by Auburn’s power running game.
Auburn: The Tigers received 46 votes in last week’s rankings and could jump into the top 25 after an impressive road SEC win.
Auburn: The Tigers get a week off to rest before a home game against Arkansas on Oct. 22.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs travel to face BYU in a non-conference game on Friday.