AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn was pleased with Auburn's performance in its Week 1 victory over Washington but said in the days following that the running game left some production to be desired, and that it would be the primary focus in practices leading up to the home opener.
The Tigers left no questions on Pat Dye Field about their ability to run the ball Saturday night.
Led by tailback JaTarvious Whitlow's 122 yards and receiver Anthony Schwartz's 117 total yards and two touchdowns, No. 7 Auburn racked up 429 rushing yards and routed Alabama State 63-9.
Starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham played only into the second quarter, with the Tigers (2-0) leading 42-0. The redshirt junior finished 6 of 11 for 113 yards with a passing and rushing score.
Stidham's backup, sophomore Malik Willis, gifted the Hornets (1-1) their first points of the night when he was sacked in the end zone on his first snap for a 4-yard safety in the second quarter. Willis directed the offense until 23-year-old freshman left-hander Cord Sandberg took the on the last play of the third quarter.
Sandberg, a former minor league baseball player for the Philadelphia Phillies, completed one pass for 22 yards and ran for 35 yards on three carries.
"(We were) able to play a lot of new guys ... that's the positive, that's what you take away from the game," said Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. "It's a long season, and depth, especially in our league, is a factor. Gave us a chance to play a whole bunch of people — defensively, offensively, special teams.
A silver medalist in the 100 meters in the U20 World Championships in Finland over the summer, Schwartz got to display his world-class speed. On his second reception, the true freshman hauled in a 57-yard post route from Stidham for the score.
Schwartz added a rushing touchdown midway through the second quarter on a reverse to top off Auburn's highest scoring half since dropping 42 in the first half in a 62-3 win over Western Carolina on Oct. 12, 2013 — also the last time Auburn scored over 60 points.
A play after Schwartz's touchdown grab, safety Daniel Thomas jumped a route for a 29-yard pick-six. The junior recorded his second interception of Darryl Pearson Jr. in the second quarter for the first multi-interception outing by a Tiger since Thomas picked off Alabama's Jalen Hurts twice in 2016.
After scoring the go-ahead touchdown in a top-10 win over Washington last week, Whitow doubled starting running back Kam Martin's carries. Malzahn said postgame that he's not ready to decide on who will be the starter next week against LSU.
Once Martin and Whitlow took to the bench, Auburn's freshman backs shined. Shaun Shivers scored his first career touchdown as part of a 117-yard night, and Harold Joiner added his first trip to the end zone with a 2-yard score out of the Wildcat formation.
"In a game like this, sometimes you just want to give those freshmen carries," Malzahn said. "That was by design ... you want to give those guys a chance to show what they can do."
Alabama State, which traveled the fewest miles (54.2) of any opponent at Jordan-Hare Stadium since the Tigers hosted Fort Benning (42.3 miles) in 1944, amassed just 47 rushing yards against an Auburn defense that had 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and three interceptions.
"We came in, we wanted to use the platform to promote our program, to find ways to build our team and I thought we did that," Alabama State coach Donald Hill-Eley said. "We'll get back and get ready for the next game. "We'll keep our goals in front of us and use this as a building block."
Alabama State: The Hornets cycled through quarterbacks before redshirt sophomore KHA'Darris Davis found Joe Williams for a 29-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Pearson Jr., the Hornets' starter, was pulled in favor of Dakota Rocker.
Auburn: Freshmen accounted for 457 of Auburn's 568 total yards. The Tigers' four turnovers are their most since committing five in a 24-10 win over FCS Mercer last season.
Alabama State: The Hornets travel to Kennesaw State next Saturday. Donald Hill-Eley's team won't return to Montgomery until Nov. 3 against Texas Southern.
Auburn: The Tigers open SEC play against No. 11 LSU next Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. ESPN announced during the game that College Gameday will be traveling to No. 4 Ohio State vs. TCU in Arlington, Texas, over Auburn-LSU.