The 6-foot, 240-pound Pettway was dominant for the Tigers, running around and through Mississippi State's defense as Auburn built a 35-0 halftime lead. The sophomore thrived even with a huge workload, carrying the ball 27 times for 125 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. He finished with 39 carries.
White had a great view of Pettway's career day, turning to hand the ball to him all afternoon. Understandably, he was impressed.
"He's a beast of a running back," White said. "He's just a tough runner. He'll get the tough yards. It might not always be pretty, but he's a really good asset for us to have."
Pettway's role was increased after starting running back Kerryon Johnson suffered a right ankle injury in the first quarter and didn't return.
Auburn (4-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) has won three straight and now gets two weeks to rest before facing Arkansas on Oct. 22.
"We really like the momentum we have," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "We've talked about getting better each week and we've done that. We're in a good spot."
Mississippi State (2-3, 1-2) actually had a little momentum in the game's opening minutes when Kivon Coman intercepted a deflected pass to give the Bulldogs' great field position at the Auburn 19. But five plays later, Westin Graves missed a 28-yard field goal.
It only got worse for Mississippi State.
Auburn scored touchdowns on five of its next seven drives to take control of the game. By late in the second quarter, boos could be heard from the home crowd as Mississippi State's listless offense took the field.
Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns, but almost all that damage came in the second half when Auburn already had control of the game.
"I wish there was one thing I could point my finger to and say that was it," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. "But there's not. It was a lot of things."
Auburn: The Tigers showed they might be a factor in the SEC Western Division race after an impressive win. Even after Johnson's injury early in the game, Pettway was able to anchor the running game. White might not be flashy at quarterback, but he's consistent and makes good decisions.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs' streak of making the postseason in six straight seasons appears to be in serious jeopardy.
Auburn: The Tigers received 46 votes in last week's rankings and could jump into the top 25 after an impressive road SEC win.
Auburn: The Tigers get a week off to rest before a home game against Arkansas on Oct. 22.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have a quick turnaround, travelling to face BYU in a non-conference on Friday.
Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP . AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org .