Rapid reaction: Auburn knocks out Memphis in Birmingham Bowl
Here are some quick thoughts on Auburn’s big victory over Memphis on Wednesday in the Birmingham Bowl.
What it means: Auburn finishes the season with a winning record and helps the SEC get off to a 2-0 start this bowl season. It was also a little bit of a revenge game for the SEC West as Memphis had already beaten Ole Miss this year.
What I liked:
- The Auburn defense was stifling. Memphis QB Paxton Lynch started the game 8-for-14 with 23 yards. Through three quarters, he was 15 for 31 with 87 yards and an interception.
- Auburn held Memphis to just 206 yards and three points on offense, incredible considering Memphis averaged 510 yards and 42.7 points per game this season. Memphis posted 491 yards and 31 points against Ole Miss.
- Inserting junior QB Jeremy Johnson into the game in the middle of the third quarter. Johnson threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to break a 10-10 tie. He also had a 5-yard rushing score. Johnson was on the field for all three Auburn TDs in the second half.
- Auburn controlled the pace with its running game. The Tigers rushed for 245 yards and controlled the ball for 34:17.
What I didn’t like:
- Auburn QB Sean White threw two interceptions late in the first half. One of the picks was returned for a touchdown, which tied the game at 10. All 10 of Memphis’ points in the first half came off turnovers.
- Despite holding Lynch to only 56 passing yards in the first half, the game was tied at 10 at halftime. White had three completions and two interceptions in the first half.
- Auburn lost the turnover battle, 3-1. The third turnover was a silly interception from WR Jason Smith on a trick play. He threw it right into the hands of Memphis DB Reggis Ball.
Who’s the man: Although Johnson turned the tide, junior RB Jovon Robinson was the star, rushing 25 times for 121 yards and a TD. Robinson’s strong effort helped Auburn control the clock. Without the ball, Lynch and the Memphis offense never found its rhythm.
Key play: With the game tied at 10, Memphis drove to the Auburn 9-yard line on the first drive of the second half. On third-and-6, Lynch threw an interception in the end zone. Rather than taking at least a three-point lead, which would have been Memphis’ first of the day, Auburn took over at their own 6-yard line. Memphis never got that close to the end zone again, and Auburn scored touchdowns on three of its next four possessions.
Final thoughts: In the first two bowl games for the SEC, LSU and Auburn were matched up against teams, Texas Tech and Memphis, which had already beaten an SEC West team during the regular season. Two blowout victories from the two Tigers teams might put to rest criticism of the SEC West.
The 31-10 victory hands the Auburn senior class its first bowl victory and gives the Tigers momentum heading into 2016.