The first half stats were depressing. San Jose State had more yards through the air and on the ground. They had almost twice the Time Of Possession. However, because of the -3 in the turnover margin, the Tigers were leading 21-7 at the half.
It was strange to see. Auburn's offense looked anemic at times. Bad plays and questionable play calls put the Tigers behind the chains a number of times. There were a few explosive plays and great field position on the turnovers that gave the Tigers the opportunities to score.
There were some fantastic plays, though. Roc Thomas coming out of the backfield picked up a huge gain on a swing pass. Duke Williams caught what looked to be almost a tunnel screen on 3rd and long and weaved his way to a first down with few blockers. Facing a 3rd and long and a blitz rushing his face, Sean White tossed a ball deep to Ricardo Louis who went up high and snagged the ball for a first down that led to the Tigers final score of the half.
There were some annoyances. Jason Smith blew past the DBs and Sean White put it just over his left shoulder on what would have been a clear 72 yard touchdown. The pass wasn't exactly on target, but it was very much catchable. As much of a beast as Peyton Barber is (he accounted for all three first half touchdowns), he does not need to be the back we trust to get to the edge and make something happen. He just doesn't have the burst. He has the power for yards up the middle, but not so much on the edge handoffs.
The second half opened poorly for the Tigers as they allowed San Jose State to put together a 7+ minute, 85 yard drive that ended in a touchdown to cut the gap to 7 points. For some reason, SJSU insisted on squib kicking it all through the early parts of the game and it backfired as Rudy Ford put the Tigers in great field position each time. The kickoff following SJSU's drive resulted in a 60 yard return and a quick Auburn touchdown by Peyton Barber for #4 on the day.
The following drive resulted in Auburn finally holding the Spartans to a punt. Auburn had held the Spartans at least three earlier times and gone for it on fourth. Two resulted in turnovers, and one was a failure to convert. Those short fields (and the Ford returns) were the reasons for the discrepancy in SJSU leading in yards gained for so long. The Tigers then drove the ball hard down the field with some excellent runs by Chunky PB & J (Roc, Peyton Barber and Johnson). For the first time all day, the Tigers failed to convert in the red zone. Daniel Carlson missed a field goal after Tyler Stovall fumbled the long snap, however.
The Spartans took over from inside their own 20 trailing by two touchdowns with right at 10 minutes to play. They went right back to the well, as Tyler Ervin picked up big gains as he'd been doing all game long. San Jose State marched down the field with zone read pass plays and missed tackles into Auburn's red zone. A pass interference penalty that looked questionable to me gave the Spartans the ball on the 2, and Tyler Ervin finally got in the end zone to draw the score to 28-21.
With 5:38 remaining and down by one score, San Jose State attempted an onside kick. It was recovered by Duke Williams. That gave the Tigers the ball on the Spartan 45 yard line. It only took two plays and two runs by Peyton Barber to drive another nail into San Jose State. The first was for 10 yards. The second was a powerful burst for 35 yards and his fifth touchdown of the game.
It wasn't over there, though. SJSU got the ball back with over 4 minutes to play and started driving again. It wasn't exactly defensive effort that slowed them down, either. That is until on 3rd and long SJSU threw a sideline pass that popped into the air off the diving receiver's hands and into the arms of true freshman Carlton Davis. With no timeouts, that pretty much sealed the deal.
After a short run, Auburn gave it to the HOSS and Barber busted up the middle for another huge gain. He finished with 28 carries, 147 yards, and five touchdowns. From there, it was nothing but kneel downs.
It wasn't pretty. The defense gave up huge chunks of yards. However, they also forced four takeaways. The offense played well even with only two passes thrown. I know many aren't thrilled with this result, but again, I'm not that upset. Auburn scored over 30 points. They won the game. They won while hardly having the ball (only four drives in the second half, counting the kneel down, I believe) and being very vanilla.
A win is a win. It's the bye week. Work on passing. Work on the offense with White. Work on containing the outside run (please?). There's still a lot of season left. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. We'll see.