NASHVILLE, Tenn. (EETV) – Auburn Football took to the road this weekend to take on Vanderbilt. The Tigers controlled the game and subdued the Commodores to take a convincing 31-15 victory.
The Auburn offense came out firing in this one, scoring on their first drive via a 67-yard rushing touchdown from running back Jarquez Hunter. The Tigers were forced to punt on their next drive, but the drive after that Hunter struck again, breaking off another long touchdown run, this one for 56 yards.
The two quick scores put Auburn up 14-0 with three minutes left in the first quarter and established the Tigers’ control of the game, something that they had struggled mightily with in previous SEC road games this season. In fact, this game was the first time Auburn had held a lead in any away game in conference play this season.
The second quarter was less ideal for the Auburn offense, however. Payton Thorne, backed up to his own five yard line, threw a pick-six to Vanderbilt defensive back Bryce Cowan, slicing the Auburn lead in half. The only other points of the quarter for either team would come off the foot of Alex McPherson, who added a 32-yard field goal to the Tigers’ tally with 20 seconds left in the quarter.
The third quarter saw the Auburn passing attack get going, racking up 122 yards in the 15-minute span. This included a 53-yard passing touchdown from Payton Thorne to tight end Rivaldo Fairweather to increase the Tigers’ lead to 17 points just a minute and a half into the quarter. Then, with just under ten minutes left in the quarter, Thorne found running back Jeremiah Cobb in the end zone for a five yard passing touchdown to drive the lead to 31-7.
Vanderbilt would add a touchdown and two-point conversion late in the quarter, but Auburn had already done enough to secure the victory. Neither team would score in the fourth quarter, as the Auburn defense held strong, capped off by an interception by cornerback Nehemiah Pritchett to end Vanderbilt’s final drive with just under two minutes left in the game.
Jarquez Hunter stood out for Auburn in this one, finishing with a line of 19 carries for 183 yards and two touchdowns. The 183 yards was a career-high for Hunter, and the game was also the third two-touchdown performance of his career.
The Auburn defense also played well, allowing just 266 total yards: 166 through the air and 100 on the ground. D.J. James led the Tigers in solo tackles with seven, and he also added two pass breakups to his line. The Tigers were also great on third down, holding Vanderbilt to a paltry 14% third-down conversion rate.
It wasn’t all perfect for the Tigers though. The receivers struggled with drops most of the day, oddly so for a unit that came into the game with the least dropped passes in the FBS. Auburn also struggled with penalties, committing five of them for 60 yards. Coach Hugh Freeze was asked about these issues after the game.
“I think our guys competed well and did some nice things. They also did some not-so-nice things,” said Freeze. “I think without the penalties and the drops, it wouldn’t have been close.”
Overall, though, Coach Freeze was happy with the performance he saw from his team.
“To steal a win here after leaving those plays out there speaks to the progress we’re making,” he said. Freeze also added, “Look, it's been a long time since Auburn played well up here.
Overall, Auburn continues to build momentum in the back half of their conference schedule and will look to become bowl eligible in Hugh Freeze’s first season with a win over the Arkansas Razorbacks next week in Fayetteville in the Tigers’ penultimate conference matchup of the season.