Football is finally back for Auburn and the rest of the SEC. Auburn opened the season with a hard-fought 29-13 victory over a quality opponent in Kentucky. While the game was not necessarily pretty, the Tigers' effort shone for all sixty minutes. Coach Gus Malzahn honored the late Coach Pat Dye with his outfit, and his players honored the late coach with their sixty minute effort. Bo Nix threw three touchdown passes, including two to Seth Williams and the Auburn defense forced three turnovers during the victory. Jamien Sherwood's fumble recovery in the fourth quarter followed by Williams second touchdown grab gave Auburn breathing room. On the very next Kentucky possession the Tiger's defense forced a three-and-out and then stopped Kentucky's All-American punter, Max Duffy, on an attempted fake. Bo Nix put the game on ice two plays later with a beautiful throw to Eli Stove for the final touchdown of the game.
Kentucky opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 93 yard touchdown drive capped by Kavosiey Smoke's 35 yard scoring scamper on third down. Third down was a serious problem for the Auburn defense as they allowed the Wildcats to convert on eighty percent (8/10) of their first half third down attempts. Auburn quickly answered with their own scoring drive ending with a D.J. Williams one yard TD plunge. Auburn then executed on a two-point attempt with graduate transfer quarterback Grant Loy hooking up with John Samuel Schenker. The score remained at 8-7 at the half despite both Auburn and Kentucky moving the ball with effectiveness. Both teams got stopped on fourth down attempts in opposition territory. Right before the half, Kentucky got to the one yard line. First, it appeared the Wildcats had scored, but a review ruled Kentucky just short of the goal line. Next, Roger McCreary picked off Terry Wilson and appeared to have a pick-six when he returned the interception for a touchdown. However, Derick Hall was flagged for a targeting block which negated that touchdown.
In the second half, Auburn drew first blood when Bo Nix found Seth Williams on third and goal from the eleven. Auburn forced three-and-outs on both of the Wildcats first two second half drives. On Kentucky's third drive, directly following the Auburn touchdown, Kentucky came up with an answering touchdown on a Terry Wilson TD throw. However, a failed two-point attempt by the Wildcats left Auburn with a 15-13 lead. Auburn then pulled away in the fourth quarter with Nix's second and third TD throws.
Bo Nix finished an efficient 16/27 for 233 yards and the three touchdowns and also added 34 rushing yards. Nix finished as the Tigers leading rusher. Seth Williams had a monster day turning 6 catches into 112 yards and two TDs. On defense, the Tigers were led by K.J. Britt's career high 11 tackles. McCreary recorded the interception and both Sherwood and sophomore Owen Pappoe had fumble recoveries. In his postgame remarks Gus Malzahn pointed to penalties and third down play as two areas his team really needed to improve on before next weeks visit to the Georgia Bulldogs. Auburn was flagged 7 times for 55 yards. After the extremely rough first half on defensive third downs the Tigers finished the day allowing the Wildcats to convert 12 of 19 attempts (which included a 4 for 9 mark in the second half). Meanwhile, on offense Auburn converted on 4 of 10 third down chances. A big key in the game was the turnover battle which Auburn won 3-0. Kentucky did outgain Auburn 384-324. This was in large part due to Kentucky's ball control offense allowing the Wildcats to run 78 plays compared to Auburn's 57. Another story line on the day was Big Kat Bryant largely not playing due to an injury in practice this week. Bryant did play sparingly in the second half after Hall's ejection for targeting.