A week after being booed and benched, Brandon Cox passed for 135 yards and a touchdown as Auburn broke open what had been a close game in the second half to defeat New Mexico State 55-20 Saturday night.
Cox's passing complemented the running of Ben Tate and Mario Fannin. Tate rushed 21 times for 112 yards and a touchdown, while Fannin ran the ball 15 times for 103 yards and three touchdowns, including a 67-yarder in the fourth quarter.
The game was redemption for both Cox and Fannin. Cox, a fifth year senior who started the last two years, was benched early in last week's upset loss to Mississippi State and was mostly ineffective in Auburn's 1-2 start. After booing Cox lustily last week, fans were hollering "Brandon! Brandon!" after he threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith early in the third quarter.
Fannin had fumbled three times in the first three games, but held onto the ball against the Aggies after spending the week carrying a football every where he went on campus. His three touchdowns were the most by an Auburn player since 2005.
Auburn (2-2) held a slim 21-20 lead at halftime. Cox, who came in during the second quarter, gave the Tigers a spark as they outscored the Aggies 34-0 in the second half.
New Mexico State (2-2) was led by Chase Holbrook, who completed 29-of-40 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, but had three interceptions. Auburn's Jonathan Wilhite had two of those interceptions.
Freshman quarterback Kodi Burns, who saw his first action last week, started instead of Cox. The Tigers started slow, failing to get a first down in their first two possessions.
The defense got Auburn on the board at 7:33 in the first quarter when Pat Sims recovered a fumble by the Aggies' A.J. Harris and returned it 21 yards for a score. It was the first time Auburn had scored first this season.
The Aggies came back as Holbrook got the passing game going, driving 80-yards in 10 plays, including a 44-yard completion over the middle to Nick Cleaver. Holbrook scored on one-yard sneak as the Aggies tied the score 7-7 at 3:51 in the first.
Auburn took the lead on the next play from scrimmage when Burns hit Smith with a 58 yard scoring pass.
New Mexico State tied it again on a 5-yard pass from Holbrook to Brandon Allen. The Aggies took a 20-14 lead two plays later.
On his first play, Cox fumbled the snap on Auburn's next play and Holbrook followed with a 25-yard TD pass to Chris Williams.
Cox had better luck on Auburn's next possession, leading the Tigers on a 9-play, 62-yard drive capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Fannin, giving the Tigers a 21-20 lead.