The Auburn Tigers (2-0, 0-0 SEC) entered today as a 24-point favorite to the Spartans of San Jose St (1-1, 0-0 MW), but it did not take long for the fans inside Jordan-Hare to not become desperate for a cover, but simply for a touchdown or even a first down. Held scoreless for the first 23 minutes of the game, flashbacks of last year’s Georgia State became a topic of nervous laughter.
Commotion filled throughout the stadium during pregame warmups, as TJ Finley was announced the starting QB for tonight’s game. The question of whether that noise was positive or not was quickly answered following Auburn’s -20 yard opening drive. The ‘boo-birds’ sounded as “we want Robby” chants scattered throughout the Southeast corner of the stadium.
Head coach Bryan Harsin, who announced the purposeful plan of a two-quarterback system following the 42-16 win over Mercer, had Robby Ashford out for the second drive. The cheers lasted no more than four plays, as this drive ended in Ashford’s pass being intercepted. Both QBs threw a pick in an anything but efficient first half, which ended in San Jose State leading 10-7.
Auburn started the second half with a nine-play, 69-yard touchdown drive capped off by a Tank Bigsby one-yard touchdown run, giving him his 3rd of the season. Bigsby had 47 of his 80 total yards on the drive. Jarquez Hunter also added 41 yards and another touchdown. This gave the offense the momentum that was needed, as they outscored the Spartans 17-6 in the second half.
It seems the answer to any “who is the starting quarterback” questions have been established, as TJ Finley took a vast majority of the second-half snaps. Following the interception in the first half, Finley responded by going 12-15 through the air for 158 yards and a rushing touchdown. It appears that Ashford will stick to a QB read/running option for the Tigers. Ashford finished as the leading rusher in the game for either squad, totaling 61 yards on seven carries.
While Jordan-Hare Stadium is always an opposing team’s nightmare, the Spartans took the ‘death by a thousand paper cuts’ method, eating up the play clock every play and methodically driving on the Auburn defense, doubling the Tiger’s time of possession in the first half.
Had it not been for the faithful Auburn students in Jordan-Hare bringing electricity and forcing a goal line stand (two forced timeouts followed by back-to-back false starts) resulting in San Jose St settling for three, the momentum may have grown even larger than it seemed at the time.
“It was huge that they didn’t score right there… Jordan Hare: Best atmosphere on the planet, man, every week they come and show up no matter who we play and I love them for that”, Owen Pappoe, senior LB and voted captain stated.
Pappoe, who missed a majority of last season to an ankle injury, was later asked if he was back to 100% and his response, “110%”, which is great news for the defense. The senior finished with 7 total tackles.
“I thought the crowd really played a factor in the game… that was really good by our crowd to hear them and feel them in the game… that's what playing at Auburn should be like. It should be really really challenging for the opposing team's and I feel like we felt that tonight”, said head coach Brian Harsin when asked about the noise levels in key situations.
The crowd will certainly be a factor next weekend as Auburn welcomes James Franklin and Penn State (2-0, 0-0 Big 10) to the Plains for the CBS Game Of The Week. The players are looking to avenge their tough 28-20 loss last year, while the students will try to show Penn State that Jordan-Hare is not only louder and tougher than Happy Valley, but the toughest place to play in all of college football.
“I’ll never take (a win) for granted… doing this for a long time… it’s always good to win”, Harsin expressed. A perfect quote and a perfect ending to what may easily be one of the crazier week 2 upsets in college football history. When triple zeros hit the game clock, all of Auburn was able to breathe a sigh of relief and set their sights on a very good Penn State team. And although the wins may not come with glory or ease, having a zero in the loss column after a week like this is never something to complain about. On to Victr’y, and on to week three.