Auburn football season in review: Record-setting Music Bowl highlights wild year
The 2018 Auburn season was not a particularly memorable one, at least not until the record-setting Music City Bowl. That’s not to say the Tigers didn’t have their moments. A victory over a ranked Washington team that won the Pac-12 championship set the stage for what was supposed to be a run at a second consecutive SEC Championship Game.
Well, we know that was quickly vanquished by a walk-off loss to LSU and back-to-back head-scratching losses to Mississippi State and Tennessee. But after losing two of their final three regular-season games, the Tigers salvaged an 8-5 season with an incredible effort in the Music City Bowl.
Here are 10 individual and team highlights that helped define Auburn’s 2018 season.
1. The Music City Bowl
Where was this execution all year? The Tigers were virtually flawless, especially in the first half as they improved to 24-17-2 all-time in bowl games and 2-0 in the Music City Bowl. The 63 points scored were the most by Auburn in a bowl game, most in a Music City Bowl game, and most by an SEC team in any bowl game.
The 56 points scored in the first half also set a program record.
2. Impressive beginning
Auburn knocked off then-No. 6 Washington, 21-16, in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. It was a true team effort. Auburn needed to execute in all three phases of the game to come away with the big victory. The highlight? Sal Cannella’s leaping TD grab.
3. Offense sputtered but dependable
No the Tigers weren’t the offensive juggernaut that many expected. But they scored in every game, extending the consecutive game streak to 80 in which they have put points on the board. That’s the second-longest streak in school history. In addition, the Tigers scored first in nine of 13 games.
4. Ryan Davis best of all-time
The wide receiver became Auburn’s all-time leading receiver. He completed a stellar career with 5 catches against Purdue in the bowl game to push his career mark to 178 catches. He caught passes in 27 consecutive games, most since Karsten Bailey’s 28-game streak (1996-98) and fourth-longest such streak in program history. He scored his seventh career touchdown reception in the Music City Bowl.
He combined with QB Jarrett Stidham to become the most productive pass tandem in program history (154 completions).
5. Stidham saves best for last
Stidham’s 5 touchdown passes in the Music City Bowl were a career-high and an Auburn bowl record. His 373 passing yards were second-most by Auburn in a bowl game, surpassed only by the 394 yards Ben Leard threw against Michigan in the 2001 Citrus Bowl.
It was Stidham’s fifth 300-yard passing game and his personal high while at Auburn. He threw 18 touchdown passes this season and 36 over his two-year career at Auburn. He finished sixth on the all-time passing list at Auburn in TD passes and yards (5,891), and fourth in completions (470). All in two years.
6. “Boobee” Whitlow future superstar
Auburn’s freshman running back JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow led the team in rushing (787) and though he did not reach 1,000 yards in his first season, he showed that the Auburn run game is in good hands for years to come. His 66-yard touchdown receptions in the Music City Bowl was the third-longest pass play of the season. It was the first game in which he had a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game. He is the first Auburn player to score 3 touchdowns in a bowl game.
7. Big-play Darius Slayton
His 74-yard touchdown reception from Stidham was the second-longest pass play of the season, longest in Slayton’s career, and longest in Auburn bowl history. He caught 4 TD passes this season and the junior now has 10 for his career. Auburn’s leading receiver this season ranks 11th all-time with 1,605 yards.
8. Dangerous Deshaun Davis
The senior linebacker led the team in tackles for the second consecutive season. With 266 career tackles, Davis ranks among the all-time best to come through Auburn. It’s the fourth-most since 2000.
9. PAT automatic
Through all the trials and tribulations of the 2018 season, one things was perfect. Anders Carlson converted on all 44 PAT kick attempts this season and Auburn now holds the SEC record with 274 consecutive, the longest current streak in the nation.
10. Speedy Schwartz a dual threat
Freshman WR Anthony Schwartz is a speedster who proved this season that he can take it to the house on every touch either rushing or receiving. The dual threat ran for 5 touchdowns on 27 carries, averaging 7.81 yards per try, and added 2 receiving scores on 22 pass receptions, averaging16.23 yards per reception.