AUBURN, Ala. — Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter both surpassed the 100-yard mark for the second straight week and Auburn shut out Western Kentucky in the second half to lead the Tigers to a 41-17 Senior Day victory Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"Those kids are special," Auburn interim head coach Carnell Williams said. "Give these kids credit, and this staff."
Tied 17-17 at the half, Auburn outscored the Hilltoppers 24-0 in the second half, putting the game out of reach on D.J. James' 22-yard interception return for a touchdown with 6:15 to play.
Jaylin Simpson recorded the first of two Auburn turnovers, intercepting a pass to end Western Kentucky's first drive of the second half.
After the teams exchanged punts, Bigsby rushed twice for 20 yards, then Robby Ashford faked a jet sweep pitch and threw deep to Ja'Varrius Johnson for 29 yards to set up Alex McPherson's 28-yard field goal to give Auburn a 20-17 lead.
The Tigers added to their lead late in third quarter on a seven-play, 78-yard drive. On third-and-4 from Auburn's 46-yard line, Ashford faked a toss to the right and ran to his left for 19 yards to WKU's 35.
From there, Ashford tossed left to Bigsby, who followed blocks by left tackle Kilian Zierer and fullback John Samuel Shenker 35 yards down the sideline to put Auburn head 27-17 with 1:08 remaining in the third quarter.
"It was awesome," Zierer said. "I ran out there, made my block and just saw Tank run by. Everybody started screaming on the sideline, a great moment."
After stopping WKU on fourth-and-23 at Auburn's 38-yard line, the Tigers drove 62 yards on four plays, with Bigsby and Hunter both passing the century mark on the drive. One play after Bigsby's 23-yard gain, Hunter raced 40 yards to his right on a toss sweep to give Auburn a 34-17 lead before James' pick-six 93 seconds later concluded the scoring.
"One thing the really good coaches have in common is getting the ball to their best players," Williams said.
Bigsby rushed 18 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns while Hunter gained 109 yards on 13 carries, rushing for a TD while throwing a touchdown pass.
"That's music to my ears, to see those guys feed off each other," Williams said. "I love to see those two guys rumbling. I love that one-two punch."
Auburn scored on its first possession, marching 68 yards on 13 plays and scoring on Bigsby's 1-yard run. On fourth-and-3 from WKU's 44, Ashford threw to Shedrick Jackson for 9 yards to extend the drive.
The Tigers led 10-0 after the first quarter thanks to McPherson's 51-yard field goal. Ashford was 5-for-5 for 50 yards on third downs in the opening quarter, picking up three first downs in the process.
After a Western Kentucky field goal, Auburn extended its lead to 17-3 midway through the second quarter when Ashford pitched to Hunter, who threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Koy Moore.
The Hilltoppers scored twice before halftime to tie it at 17-17 on a pair of touchdown passes from Austin Reed to Josh Simon, the latter coming with six seconds left in the half.
Before the game, the Tigers honored 24 seniors. Two walk-on seniors figured in the game's final plays, with walk-on Hayden Brice sacking WKU's backup quarterback on fourth down and Auburn quarterback Trey Lindsey taking a knee to run out the clock.
"Twenty-four seniors have been through two head coaches, multiple position coaches," Williams said. "The way they have responded, they want more. They gave me so much confidence to do this job."
Cam Riley led Auburn with eight tackles. The Tigers held WKU to 106 yards in the second half.
"[Defensive coordinator] Coach [Jeff] Schmedding is a heck of a coach," Williams said. "He and that staff do a really good job. They are locked in. They believe they can shut people out."
Auburn (5-6, 2-5) concludes the 2022 regular season next Saturday in the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS and the Auburn Sports Network.