AUBURN — There’s only one thing left for Auburn to do now.
Bring on Bama.
JaTarvious Whitlow scored the first two touchdowns, Bo Nix set a freshman record, the defense held down a shutout and the Auburn football team dropped Samford 52-0 on Saturday in a rainy tune-up for the Iron Bowl in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Whitlow’s second touchdown kicked off the scoring in a 24-point second quarter for Auburn, in which a ho-hum 7-0 lead at the end of the first stretched into a 31-0 halftime advantage.
The Tigers (8-3) host rival Alabama (10-1) at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday in Jordan-Hare.
The Tide blasted Western Carolina 66-3 in its own nonconference tune-up across the state.
“We’re excited,” Gus Malzahn said outside the locker room Saturday when he was asked to look ahead. “We’ve got the Iron Bowl at home. It’s as good as it gets.”
And Auburn’s back to its winning ways going in.
Nix topped Stan White’s record for most completions by a freshman in the win, and tied White’s record for freshman touchdown tosses. He hit Harold Joiner on a 10-yard touchdown in the second quarter to make it 21-0 before Shaun Shivers punched in a touchdown about two minutes later after Zakoby McClain forced a turnover in Samford territory. Roger McCreary recovered that fumble.
The Tigers forced four turnovers overall. Christian Tutt recovered a fumble by Samford quarterback Liam Welch earlier in the first. Tutt intercepted Welch later in the third quarter. Senior safety Jeremiah Dinson pulled down Auburn’s other forced turnover, grabbing an interception in the second quarter.
Auburn’s defense held Samford to 114 total yards. Second-teamers came on for the Tigers early in the third quarter.
“I think it gives us a lot of momentum,” freshman linebacker Owen Pappoe said of going into the Iron Bowl.
“We held them to under 150 yards of offense and that was our goal — and we got the shutout on top of that. We’re really pumped about it.”
Samford fell to 5-7, playing out of the Division I’s FCS.
Nix hit on 15 of 23 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. Nix has hit 185 completions in his freshman season, beating White’s freshman record of 180. His 14th touchdown pass, the one to Joiner, tied White’s freshman mark in that category.
Auburn’s offense finished without a turnover while the defense forced four.
“Obviously, anytime you shut an opponent out, that’s really something in college football. Our defense did that,” Malzahn said. “I thought our offense did a good job on the ground and through the air.
“The first half it was miserable, the weather was. Our guys handled that well, we didn’t have any turnovers. We got in the second half (and) we were able to play a lot of different people. It really didn’t get sloppy. I thought our guys played good, clean football.”
Backup quarterback Cord Sandberg hit transfer receiver Zach Farrar for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, under grey skies in Auburn. Rain poured over the field in the first half, but the Tigers hardly seemed to let to let it affect them.
Auburn picked up its eighth win, moving on in its new goal to win 10 — beating Alabama and bringing home a trophy from a bowl game.
“I’d say we’re really confident,” Nix said. “We’re still kind of frustrated after the season we’ve had — but to finish strong would be great heading into next year.”