AUBURN — In the second game of the season, with a rematch with Penn State on the horizon, Auburn (2-0) struggled against San Jose State (1-1), defeating the 24-point underdog Spartans 24-16.
The first half was not a pretty affair for the Tigers, with just 70 yards through the air, 83 yards on the ground and 75 penalty yards from eight accepted penalties as Auburn went into the locker room trailing 10-7.
Auburn's offense struggled out of the gate, with each quarterback throwing a pick and combining for two completions on seven attempts for 10 yards in the first quarter. T.J. Finley's lone interception, Auburn's second of the day, gave San Jose State good field position and an early 3-0 lead for the Spartans.
Robby Ashford took a backseat to the veteran quarterback as Finley bounced back, leading Auburn on a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that culminated with a Jarquez Hunter touchdown, his fourth of the season. The score gave Auburn the lead, but it did not last.
Despite the deficit at halftime, the team did not lose hope of bouncing back.
"The character of this team, nobody on the team let me put my head down," Finley said. "So that's what we've been talking about all fall camp all spring all summer, like, we brothers, and we really got each other."
Auburn did bounce back with a 69-yard touchdown drive to open the third quarter. The Tigers never gave up the lead again, scoring on their first three possessions, outscoring San Jose State 17-6 in the second half, and committing just two more penalties the rest of the game.
"We didn't play well like we wanted to in the first half. And then, you know, we found ways to get the job done in the second half," head coach Bryan Harsin said after the game.
The offense made the necessary adjustments, and the defense continued to shut down the run, holding the Spartans to just 54 yards on the ground and sacking quarterback Chevan Cordeiro three times.
Marcus Harris led the way with three tackles for loss, a career-high for the junior defensive tackle.
"Anytime you get a win, especially against those types of teams, is a good win. They come in. They are ready to play," Harris said.
The defense was not lights out, however, and Cordeiro was able to pick apart the defense at times, finishing the game with 24 completions on 40 attempts for 275 yards – the most Auburn gave up to a non-conference opponent at home since Jacksonville State in 2015.
The Tigers once again failed to force a turnover and are now -4 on the year, with two interceptions from each quarterback.
"We haven't gotten [turnovers], and when the ball is being thrown, at some point, we've got to find a way to be in a position to make some of those plays on the ball," Harsin said.
Despite the issues on offense and defense, Harsin remained complimentary of San Jose State and the things they did offensively and defensively to neutralize the Tigers. Most of the team was also aware of chaos across the college football world today.
Six top-25 teams lost today, including four to unranked opponents, so the Tigers did not take the win for granted.
"I'm actually grateful, man. Hats off to all the smaller schools, man, they all came out to play today, and a lot of the underdogs won," senior linebacker Owen Pappoe said. "It's hard to get wins, you know, we came out with the dub today, and that's all that matters.
Auburn will go back to the drawing board and look to make some adjustments from its week two opponent as the team prepares for Penn State to come to town in a rematch from last year. The game is set to kick off at 2:30 p.m. CST on CBS.
Notes—Auburn has scored in 119 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in school history… Auburn has won 17 straight home games against non-conference opponents dating back to a 19-13 loss to No. 2 Clemson to open the 2016 season…Auburn has won 46 straight home games against unranked non-conference opponents since a 26-23 overtime loss to South Florida in 2007
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