Rapid reaction: Auburn avoids monumental upset vs. Jacksonville State
Here are some quick thoughts on sixth-ranked Auburn narrowly avoiding the most surprising loss in program history:
What it means: Where do we begin? One of the preseason national champion favorites has to regroup before making any plans for Atlanta later this fall. The Tigers avoided their first-ever loss to an FCS opponent but have serious issues offensively and injuries to several key players on defense is alarming heading into next week’s matchup against LSU.
What I liked: Without question, Peyton Barber was Auburn’s best player, compiling 134 yards of total offense including a 10-yard gain in overtime on a screen pass that led to a touchdown rush on his next carry. Jeremy Johnson shook off a disappointing game with a touchdown pass to Melvin Ray with 39 seconds left to force overtime. Auburn’s goal line stand in the extra session, highlighted by Cassanova McKinzy’s sack on third down, preserved the win.
We’re headed to overtime in Jacksonville State-Auburn. This was the game-tying TD by Auburn: https://t.co/tMhpG6eKCZ
— Covers (@Covers) September 12, 2015
What I didn’t like: Johnson’s lack of confidence as this team’s leader on offense. Not only did he turn it over twice, but the junior first-year starter never found a rhythm against a squad the Tigers were favored to beat by six touchdowns. Auburn’s defensive line, at times, looked out of sorts against Jacksonville State’s zone read. Lots of over-pursuing by defensive ends and linebackers biting on play fakes.
Who’s the man: Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins managed 330 yards of total offense and a touchdown to help the Gamecocks nearly shock the Tigers. Wideout Josh Barge caught 14 passes for 132 yards and a score.
Key plays: On 4th-and-2 at the Auburn 35 following a timeout with eight minutes to play, Jenkins picked up the first down on a keeper. The Gamecocks scored six plays later to take a 20-13 lead with 5:38 left to play. Johnson’s heave to Ray in the back of the end zone tied the game with 39 seconds left.
What’s next: With their egos bruised, the media’s SEC preseason champion travel to Baton Rouge for their SEC opener.