Auburn survives against Southern Miss

Offense struggles in win over Golden Eagles

By JEFFERY WINBORNE, Eagle Sports Correspondent
Posted 9/30/18

AUBURN — A perfect late-September afternoon in Auburn turned into a 2 hour and 44 minute lightning delay as strong thunderstorms moved through Lee County Saturday.

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Auburn survives against Southern Miss

Offense struggles in win over Golden Eagles

Posted

AUBURN — A perfect late-September afternoon in Auburn turned into a 2 hour and 44 minute lightning delay as strong thunderstorms moved through Lee County Saturday.

Five hours after No. 10 Auburn kicked off against Southern Miss, the Tigers finally found some semblance of rhythm offensively on their way to a 24-13 victory over the Golden Eagles.

The first half of play proved to be particularly problematic for an Auburn offense that is still trying to find itself after five games. Southern Miss disrupted the Tigers’ offensive line at every level throughout the game, sending quarterback Jarrett Stidham scrambling out of the pocket all night.

“I think the big thing is that we had trouble protecting, and at times I think it made things a little bit ugly,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said following the win. “We had a couple of guys get banged up, starters, and I thought the backups that cam in did a solid job.”

Stidham echoed his coach’s thoughts in regard to pass protection breaking down.

“It’s part of it, growing pains, especially when you have guys that go down,” he said. “Anytime you have injuries or whatever it may be, you’re going to have some growing pains. That’s why you play the game.”

The senior quarterback went 19-of-33 passing for 245 yards and two touchdowns, his best statistical performance since the week 1 matchup against Washington.

After already being forced to punt twice, Auburn (4-1, 1-1) took over at the 4:18 mark of the first quarter. On 2nd and 9, Stidham took a shot downfield and connected with freshman Seth Williams for a 46-yard touchdown pass, Stidham’s fourth passing score of the season.

Southern Miss, having issues of its own moving the ball against Auburn’s defense in the first half, was forced to settle for a 44-yard field goal by Parker Shaunfield.

Auburn’s ensuing drive saw one of the Tigers’ few sustained drives of the day, moving the ball 73 yards on 13 plays. After Kam Martin set the Tigers up inside the 10-yard line, Anthony Schwartz ran around the right end for a 6-yard score to put Auburn up 14-3.

After the extended delay, both teams traded scoreless possessions to head into an abbreviated halftime.

After throwing for just 48 yards in the first half, Eagles’ quarterback Jack Abraham put up 167 yards and a touchdown through the air after halftime, picking apart Auburn’s secondary. He finished the night completing 30-of-44 passes for 215 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown pass.

On Southern Miss’ first drive of the half, Abraham threw passes for 9, 7, 21 and 13 yards, before the drive stalled after a sack. Shaunfield pushed through a 51-yard field goal to make it 14-6.

Stidham showed off his arm strength again on the next drive, throwing 53 yards to Darius Smith to put the Tigers in scoring position. Two plays later he scored for the second time, this time on a 2-yard touchdown pass to Chandler Cox to make it 21-6.

After Southern Miss blocked Anders Collins field goal, the Eagles had the ball 1st and 10 at the Tigers’ 37-yard line. Abraham completed a 21-yard pass to Jay’Shawn Washington before scoring his teams’ only touchdown of the night with a 12-yard pass to Quez Watkins.

With 1:53 left in the game and trailing by eight points, Jacques Turner got to Jarrett Stidham, who fumbled the ball and gave life back to Southern Miss.

Auburn’s defense stepped up when Christian Tutt intercepted Abraham, ending the hopes of an upset.

A 23-yard field goal by Anders Carlson sealed the deal, giving Auburn an 11-point, 24-13 lead to end the game.

“Overall, I’m please with the victory,” Malzahn added.

“Christian Tutt’s turnover late really sealed the game. (Southern Miss) was 2-of-13 on third down, and we’ve talked about playing good third down defense and our guys did that.”

Auburn’s offense will continue to be challenged when the Tigers travel to Starkville, Miss., to take on Mississippi State next week as part of a five-game stretch of in-conference matchups. The Bulldogs fell to Florida on Saturday.