By TERESA M. WALKER AP Sports Writer
Jarquez Hunter ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter and Auburn never trailed on Saturday as it beat Vanderbilt 31-15 to give the Tigers their second straight victory.
Auburn (5-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) has now won consecutive league titles after sitting out a total of four games.
Hunter finished his career with 183 yards rushing on 19 carries.
Payton Thorne threw for 194 yards and two touchdowns, including a 53-yarder to Rivaldo Fairweather. Auburn defeated Vandy 424-266, and the Tigers also had five sacks and Nehemiah Pritchett’s interception with 1:50 left sealed the win.
With Arkansas beating Florida in overtime on Saturday, Vanderbilt (2-8, 0-6) is now the SEC’s only winless team in league play. The Commodores must try to win on the road to avoid being eliminated from the SEC with their final home game as Vanderbilt continues its first major rebuild since 1981.
Hunter gave Auburn the lead to stay on the Tigers’ second play from scrimmage. He ran up the middle to the left sideline for a 67-yard touchdown. He capped Auburn’s third drive with a 56-yarder, giving him 121 yards on his first three carries and a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.
Bryce Cowan intercepted a Thorne pass and had to run just 4 yards for Vanderbilt’s first touchdown early in the second quarter. The Commodores now have 11 interceptions this season after tying Auburn for the most interceptions in the SEC this game.
While held to 93 yards in the first half, Vanderbilt tried to rally on third down to make it 31-7. Ken Seals threw a 30-yard TD pass to Junior Sherill, and they converted the 2-point run to make it 31-15. Vandy had the first score at the Auburn 10 when Marcus Harris and Cam Riley sacked Seals for an 11-yard loss.
Seals’ final throw into the end zone on fourth-and-14 almost went over the wall into the construction zone as the Commodores turned the ball over on downs.
Auburn showed quick-hitting ability on each of its first three TD rushes. It helped with Hunter’s two long TD runs, but the only scoring drive that took more than 79 seconds came in the third quarter. The Tigers used 2:13 of the clock over seven plays and 64 yards before Thorne’s second TD pass, a 5-yarder to Jeremiah Cobb, made it a 31-7 lead.
Auburn visits Arkansas next Saturday looking for its third straight SEC win.
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