Nashville, Tenn. (EETV) - Auburn will look to forget its trip to Nashville for the Transperfect Music City Bowl as they lose what was never a close contest, 31-13 to Maryland.
With Big Ten passing leader, Taulia Tagovailoa, opting out of the bowl game for the Terrapins, their passing attack was a big question mark coming into the game.
That optic was quickly put to rest as backup quarterback, Billy Edwards Jr., set the Auburn defense on fire early, finding Roman Hemby out of the backfield for a 61-yard gain that would set up an early two-yard rushing touchdown from Edwards Jr. to give Maryland the early 7-0 lead.
Meanwhile, not much could be said for Auburn as their first offensive drive consisted of three plays for a total of nine yards.
With the Auburn defense having a different look in the secondary today, they had a chance to alleviate some pressure on Maryland’s
second offensive drive as Cam Riley punched the ball loose of the Terrapin ball carrier, but after five different Auburn defenders touched the ball, Maryland recovered the fumble setting up a five-yard touchdown pass from Edwards Jr. to Preston Howard, giving Maryland the 14-0 lead.
And that’s the kind of day Auburn would have in Nashville.
Auburn went three-and-out yet again on its second drive, and Maryland wasn’t done as Cameron Edge found Kaden Prather for 57-yards to set up a three-yard touchdown to Dylan Wade and the 21-point lead over Auburn to end the first quarter.
The Auburn offense began to show some life in the second quarter as they controlled the time of possession on a drive that went for 80 yards for their first score of the game. Payton Thorne would connect with Rivaldo Fairweather numerous times, setting them up for a five-yard Brandon Frazier touchdown.
“I didn’t get too involved in it, for the most part, until this week because of recruiting,” Freeze said on the offensive game plan. “We didn’t run the ball and it starts there.”
After getting exposed in the first quarter, Ron Robert’s defense would begin to settle in as the only points scored from the Terrapins was on a 49-yard field goal before the half, giving them the 24-7 lead.
“We started with a few miscommunications and a few missed tackles, something that we critically needed,” said linebacker Austin Keys.
Auburn looked to build off their second quarter momentum and improve a stagnant offense in the second half. This they did not achieve, as it seemed the miscues grew for Freeze and the offense.
After going three-and-out on its first drive of the half, Auburn found itself digging a deeper hole as Payton Thorne would throw it right into the hands of Maryland defender Caleb Miller for a pick six on their second attempt of the half. This gave Maryland a 31-7 lead.
Holden Geriner saw some fourth quarter action, but received little to no help from his wideouts, and threw his first interception in orange and blue.
Hank Brown received his first game reps in an Auburn jersey late in to the fourth quarter, and connected on a 53-yard pass to Caleb Burton which set up a one-yard touchdown run from Jeremiah Cobb. Auburn would elect to go for two but failed leaving the score at 31-13.
Brown would finish the day 7-9 for 132 yards and as the team’s leading passer.
“Hank has incredible poise,” said Freeze. “I see it every day when he’s running the scout team and he has very little protection and he stands in there and makes throw after throw after throw. I think he has incredible poise for a freshman, for sure.”
Freeze will look to put his first season as head coach on the Plains behind him, as Auburn has now finished three straight seasons with a losing record for the first time in more than 45 years.