Auburn raced out to a 56-7 halftime lead, scoring TDs on its first eight possessions — spanning only 11 minutes — to set a record for points in any half of any bowl game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Tigers also tied Music City Bowl records for most points and TDs — set by West Virginia in 2000 — with 5:36 left in the first half.
The 56 points by halftime were the most scored in any half in program history.
Auburn (8-5) rolled in the finale of a season in which it opened with a top-10 ranking, stumbled a bit in the middle and concluded with a record-setting performance. It was the Tigers’ first postseason victory since beating Memphis in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl.
Auburn scored the most points by a Southeastern Conference team in a bowl, topping Alabama’s 61-6 win over Syracuse in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1953. The Tigers had a chance to match the most points ever scored in a bowl (70), most recently reached by Army in the Armed Forces Bowl last week, but they took a knee at the Purdue 1-yard line with 61 seconds left.
“We’ve had some ups and downs this year,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said, crediting his seniors for keeping the Tigers together. “This was a big win for us.”
Stidham, a junior who already has declared his intention to leave school early for the NFL draft, got the Tigers off to a fast start, and they just poured it on from there.
“We just tried to make those explosive plays that we’ve needed all year,” Stidham said.
Purdue (6-7) dropped three of its last four games in its second season under coach Jeff Brohm.
“That one snowballed faster than most,” Brohm said. “I’ve been part of games that were a bad outcome, but that one happened fast. Credit to them, they made their breaks. Every little thing that went wrong seemed like it could. We got behind the eight-ball early.”
Auburn started the game with the ball and needed only 63 seconds to set the tone, with Stidham finding JaTarvious Whitlow for a 66-yard TD pass. Whitlow also added a pair of short TD runs as Auburn led 28-7 at the end of the first quarter.
“I mean, it was a thing of beauty to watch from the sideline to watch the guys make plays,” Malzahn said. “When we make explosive plays and we play fast, we’re a pretty good offense, and today it all came together. I really believe that will carry over to next season.”
The Tigers outgained Purdue 586-263 in total offense and had only one three-and-out late in the third quarter. Purdue was intercepted twice and turned it over on downs twice. Auburn punted once all game.
Darius Slayton set a bowl record with three TD catches of 74, 52 and 34 yards. Javaris Davis had a sack and an interception in the first quarter for Auburn, and Big Kat Bryant returned an interception 20 yards for a TD and a 45-7 lead with 12:29 left in the first half.
Purdue: With defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal out after tearing an ACL in the regular-season finale against Indiana, the Boilermakers had few answers for anything Auburn tried on offense.
Auburn: It sure looks as if coach Malzahn made the right decision when he took back the playcalling duties he handled his first three seasons at Auburn.
Auburn: The search for Stidham’s replacement begins with sophomore Malik Willis getting the first look once Malzahn finally pulled his starting quarterback with 1:33 left. Joey Gatewood also played late in the game, driving the Tigers to the 1 before taking a knee.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.