How’s that for a nice and easy season opener, huh?
We just never can make it easy when it comes to a football game. Add in the bugaboo of Mercedes-Benz Stadium and a nearly-year-long monkey that Auburn couldn’t shake, and there was no way that this game was going to be smooth or calming.
Auburn 21, Washington 16. In the end, the Tigers took care of business against a very good Husky squad that regrouped and showed us some extreme talent and grit in flinging their way around Auburn’s defense. In the end, both sides of the ball made their mark in the fourth quarter. Trailing 16-15, the offense drove for the go-ahead touchdown on Boobee Whitlow’s ten-yard run with 6:15 to play. About five minutes later, Smoke Monday and the rest of the white-clad Auburn defense swarmed Jake Browning on 4th and 14 and produced the hammer sack to end it.
The Tigers get their first opening day win over a ranked opponent in 61 years (1957 against Tennessee), and get a huge win away from Jordan-Hare Stadium against a great team.
From the start, it looked like Auburn was going to run the Huskies out of the building. Washington went three-and-out on its first drive and looked frazzled by the Auburn defensive front, which was then followed by a quick and easy drive that resulted in a Sal Cannella touchdown catch. Auburn led 6-0 (two-point conversion missed) less than four minutes into the game.
Auburn’s next drive ended with an Anders Carlson chip shot field goal to take a 9-0 lead, but Washington stabilized and answered with a field goal of its own as the first quarter ended with the Tigers up 9-3. The majority of the second quarter went back and forth with more field goals, as Auburn led 15-6 before Browning found Quinten Pounds for an acrobatic touchdown to pull within two at halftime.
The second quarter saw many of the same things that Auburn fans found frustration with last season — predictable inside runs on first down and happy feet from Jarrett Stidham on offense, with circus catches from opposing receivers and way too many flags on the defensive side of the ball. The second half didn’t give much hope as the third quarter was more of the same, but neither team found points. Auburn did rebuff Washington twice in the red zone: first on a missed field goal, and then again when Nick Coe forced a fumble.
In the final period, Washington took the lead a minute into the fourth on another short field goal, but Auburn got the ball back with about ten minutes left and plenty of work ahead.
A huge third-down conversion pass from Stidham to Chandler Cox kept the drive from stalling, then a pass interference penalty kept it alive before Darius Slayton caught a 21-yard toss to move Auburn down to Washington’s 25. Three runs from Kam Martin pushed the line of scrimmage to the 10, and then Whitlow’s burst ended it with the score.
On Washington’s final drive, the Huskies got down to Auburn’s 37 before Myles Gaskin was tackled for a loss on second down, Big Kat Bryant sacked Browning on third down, and Smoke Monday corralled Browning again on fourth down to end the foray. Auburn was able to run out the clock after that and claim the 21-16 win.
Overall, Auburn’s run defense looked good, the pass defense needs work, penalties need to clean up, and the run game needs some time to solidify. Other than that, Auburn didn’t turn the ball over, and didn’t wilt in the face of pressure. It’s a win over the #6 team in the country and you can’t overestimate the value of that. Auburn’s got the best win in college football so far this season.
New contributors emerged as well with Jamel Dean intercepting a first quarter pass from Jake Browning, and freshman receiver Seth Williams caught two passes for 37 yards as well. Both tailbacks did the dirty work against a solid defensive front, and the Tiger defense had big contributions as well from Jeremiah Dinson and Daniel Thomas.
Auburn gets a much-needed breather against Alabama State next weekend, with kickoff coming from Jordan-Hare Stadium at 6:30 pm CST.
- Total Yards: 420
- Passing Yards: 273
- Rushing Yards: 147
- Penalties: 12-111
- Third Down: 9-18
- Total Yards: 398
- Passing Yards: 296
- Rushing Yards: 102
- Penalties: 10-95
- Third Down: 5-14
AUBURN: Jarrett Stidham - 26-36, 273 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
WASHINGTON: Jake Browning - 18-32, 296 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
AUBURN: Kam Martin - 22 carries, 80 yards; Boobee Whitlow - 8 carries, 28 yards, 1 TD
WASHINGTON: Myles Gaskin - 17 carries, 75 yards
AUBURN: Ryan Davis - 7 catches, 52 yards; Chandler Cox - 4 catches, 52 yards; Darius Slayton - 3 catches, 41 yards
WASHINGTON: Aaron Fuller - 7 catches, 135 yards; Ty Jones - 3 catches, 77 yards
AUBURN: Daniel Thomas - 8 tackles, 1 pass breakup; Jeremiah Dinson - 7 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFLs; Dontavius Russell - 3 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFLS; Nick Coe - 2 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFLS, 1 fumble forced
WASHINGTON: Ben Burr-Kirven - 13 tackles; Myles Bryant - 8 tackles, 1 sack
AUBURN: Anders Carlson - 3-5 FGs; made 32, 28, 53; missed 33, 54
WASHINGTON: Peyton Henry - 3-4 FGs: made 31, 28, 30; missed 40