Hey, it’s behind us, and the record is unblemished.
Auburn beat San Jose State 24-13 tonight at Jordan-Hare Stadium to improve to 2-0 and set up a meeting with undefeated Penn State next weekend. It didn’t come easily tonight, as the Tigers looked uninspired, bored, and sloppy in a victory over the Spartans.
The Tigers trailed 10-7 at halftime, and had 8 penalties in the opening half coupled with a pair of turnovers (interceptions from each T.J. Finley and Robby Ashford). After halftime, the Tigers put together some more impressive drives that put the game away, but there will be much to improve upon before the Nittany Lions come in a week from today.
The defense held up its end of the bargain on the first two drives for San Jose State, forcing punts quickly as the rain started to fall at Jordan-Hare Stadium. However, Auburn’s offense under T.J. Finley began with one of the worst drives in school history with four penalties and a punt from the Tigers’ own end zone.
Robby Ashford got his first action on the second drive, and after a good gain on the read option, another penalty put the Tigers in long yardage, however the Tigers were able to convert on an Ashford run, and then promptly threw an interception to Trey Jenkins.
Auburn’s next drive resulted in a three-and-out, and then T.J. Finley returned to the game for the fourth drive of the night, and he promptly threw an interception on a long across the field sideline pass. That set up San Jose State at Auburn’s 28, and the Spartans reached the 1-yard line on the possession. Auburn’s defense pushed them back, and aided by a pair of false starts, they held the Spartans to a field goal, and the first points of the game came with 11:18 remaining in the first half as SJSU led 3-0.
Finally the Tigers found something to cheer about, with a 36-yard run from Damari Alston that put Auburn into SJSU territory for the first time. Auburn converted a fourth down moments later with a little screen to John Samuel Shenker, and then another completion to Shenker set up a first and goal situation. One play later, Jarquez Hunter scampered in from 7 yards out to put Auburn on the board and give the Tigers the lead at 7-3 with 6:31 left before halftime.
The rook has some SPEED! @DamariAlston #WarEagle | @ESPNU pic.twitter.com/GKUvqTD6lE— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) September 11, 2022
Auburn’s defense couldn’t capitalize on the lead and momentum, however. The Tigers allowed a 75-yard drive complete with two pass interference penalties (one on third down) to allow SJSU to score and take the lead. Kairee Robinson pushed into the end zone from a yard out with :58 left in the half to give the Spartans a 10-7 lead. Auburn reached midfield on its last-second drive, but a Hail Mary bounced off the hands of Shedrick Jackson and we went to the half trailing.
The Tigers finished the first half with 8 penalties for 76 yards, just 145 total yards, and held the ball for only 10 minutes on the way to trailing on the way into the locker room. They also ran only 27 plays compared to SJSU’s 41.
Out of the half, Auburn reestablished the run, with a solid run from Tank Bigsby to begin the drive. Tank followed that up with an 11-yard gain on a fourth down conversion, and then a 19-yard burst put the Tigers at the goal line. Bigsby finished off the 9-play, 69-yard drive with his first score of the night to give Auburn a 14-10 edge with 11:45 left in the third quarter.
Auburn’s defense forced a punt, and Keionte Scott made a nice return to give the Tigers starting field position out at the Tiger 42-yard line after a 22-yard return. T.J. Finley resumed his time at quarterback, and despite an 18-yard run from Tank and a 17-yard completion to Shedrick Jackson, the Tigers had to attempt a field goal. Anders Carlson pushed it through from 45 yards and the lead ballooned to 17-10 with 4:48 left in the third quarter.
San Jose State drove and answered with a field goal to shrink Auburn’s lead to 17-13, but Robby Ashford opened the next drive with a 30-yard jaunt around left end to put the Tigers into Spartan territory. A solid run by Jarquez Hunter preceded a 24-yard strike to Ja’Varrius Johnson to the 6-yard line, and Finley finished the drive on the read option by falling into the end zone. 24-13 Auburn with 12:45 to play.
A Derick Hall sack on the next drive led to a San Jose punt with less than 10 minutes to play, which was a questionable decision with the 24-13 deficit and the dwindling time. They did get the ball back, though, and started a drive at their own 5-yard line. After a 40-yard completion from Chevan Cordeiro to Charles Ross, and a 24-yard strike to Elijah Cooks, the Spartans were in the red zone. They settled for a field goal to pull within one score at 24-16, and had to go with the onside kick as we neared the final two minutes of play.
Auburn was able to gain the necessary first down to be able to run out the clock and finish this thing out without too much fuss, winning 24-16.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
T.J. Finley redeemed himself somewhat, but he didn’t have anywhere to go but up after the start. Auburn’s opening drive was as rough as you could imagine, with four penalties under Finley’s leadership, and then he threw a bad interception in the first quarter as well. After halftime, he ended up getting into a rhythm, finding some open guys, and leading Auburn on a couple of touchdown drives to take the lead and separate from San Jose State.
PLAY OF THE GAME
There really wasn’t one individual play that stood out above the rest on either side of the ball, so we’re going to have to go with Jarquez Hunter’s touchdown to put Auburn on the board.
Watch Auburn’s Jarquez Hunter’s first TD Saturday and fourth score of the season— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) September 11, 2022
WE WERE RIGHT ABOUT
Man, I dunno. Nothing. Maybe this was just the week of hilarity where everyone gets tested, but Auburn looked bad and out of sync all night until just overpowering a bad opponent. It looked like this was the first game we were working out way too many kinks, which is a fair assessment after the disjointed game last week.
WE WERE WRONG ABOUT
Most of it. I thought that the quarterbacks would have no trouble tonight, and that both would look good. Finley did end up redeeming himself in the second half, but Ashford’s only contribution was in the run game. His QB rating was -30.5 (a late incompletion actually improved it from -45.8). Auburn’s defense gave up frustrating passes over the middle all night long, and if this wasn’t SJSU, it would’ve been serious trouble.
Now it gets real with Penn State coming in to play next Saturday. While we wish it was a night game, getting the big treatment on CBS in the afternoon will work as well. Kickoff against the Nittany Lions will come at 2:30 pm CST.