FAU went to Auburn needing four wins in its final five games this season to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2008, but victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium was out of reach only minutes after the contest started.
Auburn jumped out to a 21-0 lead after a little more than eight minutes of play Saturday and only relented marginally until the end of the contest.
The No. 11 Tigers took a 37-8 lead into halftime and tacked on eight more points in a let’s-get-this-over-with second half, staking claim to a higher BCS ranking with a no-stress 45-10 win.
FAU was paid a $1 million guarantee for the game, and played the role of a rollover opponent well.
Auburn (7-1, 3-1) scored six touchdowns — four on the ground and two through the air — and amassed more than 600 total yards Saturday, going down to its third-string players by the second quarter. The Tigers’ 422 rushing yards were the most ever allowed by FAU in a game.
“They have a great running game,” FAU coach Carl Pelini said. We were not surprised at all. They have speed on the outside… they beat you inside. They are a good football team.”
FAU quarterback Jaquez Johnson scored FAU’s only touchdown and broke up that good football team’s shutout with 10-yard run in the second quarter. It was Johnson’s team-leading sixth touchdown run on the season.
The Tigers started the game with a six-run, 78-yard drive, capped by an 8-yard run by Park Vista alum Tre Mason. That scoring drive took less than two minutes off the clock.
A Jonathan Wallace fumble on FAU’s first offensive possession gave Auburn the ball back seconds later, and Corey Grant took he first play of that subsequent possession 43 yards to the end zone.
Down 14-0, FAU wasn’t able to get anything going offensively and punted the ball away..
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall made the most of a 70-yard Chris Davis punt return, rushing in the third touchdown of the game from 10-yards out, giving Auburn a seemingly insurmountable 21-0 lead.
The game took a scary turn when FAU linebacker Freedom Whitfield was injured on a punt in the middle of the first quarter after tackling Davis for no gain. Whitfield was put on a stretcher and carted off the field. He was moving all his extremities when he was taken to the hospital for what FAU called "precautionary measures.”
Whitfield and returned to the FAU sidelines by the end of the game, walking, though wearing a neck brace.
Auburn's offense didn't stop, despite the eight-minute delay to the game following the injury. Backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson extended Auburn's lead to 28-0 with a 36-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates. Johnson found Coates again 10 minutes later, leading the speedy receiver on a 67-yard touchdown pass-and-catch in which Coates pulled away from the in-pursuit FAU secondary to a near-comical effect.
Johnson’s touchdown run was set up by a 38-yard pass to Daniel McKinney. The play would stand as FAU’s longest of the game.
Auburn had a chance to extend its lead to 41-7 in the final seconds of the first half, when Jupiter alum Cody Parkey, who had made a 43-yard field goal earlier in the second quarter, missed from 40-yards out.
FAU’s is now winless in 11 games against ranked teams since moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2004.
To make a bowl game, FAU will have to do something it hasn’t done since that last bowl-eligible season — win four consecutive games. The Tigers host Tulane next Saturday, after which it will play at winless Southern Miss, host winless New Mexico State and end its season against one-win rival FIU.
“We are capable of doing it,” Pelini said. “I’ve been saying it all year. We are capable of doing that as a football team and that’s what our goal is.”