Coming off their first complete, and best game which led to a dominating victory over the former #1 team in the country Georgia Bulldogs. Auburn faced a potential trap game versus a lesser opponent from the FCS, University of Louisiana Monroe of the Sunbelt Conference, a team they were expected to dominate. It was easily one of those games where they could have taken the opponent lightly looking past them to next weeks, Iron Bowl against in-state Rival and perennial #1 ranked Alabama. They played the first half as if they were emotionally drained or hungover from the excitement of last week. Frankly, they played sluggishly.
It has to be a challenge not to play down to the completion when you are the superior talent. Give ULM credit they played to their capabilities, but Goliath was just too much.
On the slow start…
“I think it was odd. We didn’t have that edge that we have. We talked about it, and we really had a good week of practice. We didn’t come out like we have the last five or six times to start the game, but every game is valuable from a coach’s standpoint. Even though we didn’t start out real fast, we came out after halftime and took care of business” said Gus Malzhan
Auburn started the game off the way they played last week vs. the Dawgs scoring on a 9 play 80-yard drive. They made it look easy, Kerryon Johnson finished going right up the middle for the 8-yard touchdown.
ULM Responded with 13 play 75-yard drive that was capped off by a Bryan Williams 2 yard reverse for a touchdown. The Auburn defense stood tall but got beat on the trickery.
Jarrett Stidham was intercepted at the 14-yard line by Roland Jenkins surprisingly ULM found themselves advantageous against the Mighty Tigers. It did not last for long they were immediately shut down and forced off the field going three n out.
All season long the Tigers defense seem to play at will meaning they can turn up the heat whenever they want to. Last week, against Georgia, that happened to be for the entire game. At the end of the first quarter, ULM had me asking who this ULM is? They were matching Auburn 7-7 and appeared to have momentum.
The real Auburn defense showed up with a sack by Deshaun Davis at the 6:12 mark of the second quarter. Momentum shifted to Auburn when Stidham connected with Darius Slayton for a 50-yard touchdown pass before halftime to take the lead into break 14-7.
I do not know what Gus Malzhan served up for the halftime snack, but Auburn found themselves backed up on their 5-yard line. Apparently, it resonated with a 95-yard scoring drive where they moved the ball at will for 10 plays in 3:28. Kam Martin took it in from the 1-yard line suddenly ULM was looking directly at an SEC Freight Train, and it was moving at a speed of 21-7 on the scoreboard. However, that was not too bad, considering for all intent in purposes, the game should have been over, and Auburn’s starters should have been on the sidelines cooling their heels.
ULM Head Coach Matt Viator: On the first half…
“I was pleased. I think we competed hard and made some plays on defense. We just could never get a whole lot going on offense the whole game. We turned it over in the second half. Give them credit, they’re really good. They are hard to move the ball against. We were just a little bit off. Some of that was because of them and a little bit of that was because of us. I like the way we competed. We came out and played hard.”
Then on cue Auburn they got an interception and quickly moved down for another score it took only 2 plays and 43 yards, Stidham hit Kam Martin in the left flat 41 yards later he was dancing in the end zone, the score was 28-7. That one hurt the most because it was points off a turnover. They were starting to flicker the lights at Jordan Hare Stadium.
ULM got the ball back, but Jarvis Davis nailed Brian Williams causing him to cough up the fumble Auburn had the ball again on the ULM 44. Then in Jekyll and Hyde mode, they fumbled the ball on the one-yard line. ULM recovered and moved it out to the 33-yard line before disaster struck in the form of an interception that was run back for a touchdown by Nick Ruffin. Auburn had a commanding lead 35-7.
Just when it looked like Auburn had the game in the bag, Brian Williams atoned for his fumble by catching a 70-yard touchdown pass to keep the game somewhat interesting as the crowd started to head for the exits. On their way out they caught a glimpse of Malik Willis racing for 62 yards down to the ULM 7 yard line, his Malik brother (Malik Miller) took the 1-yard plunge to make the deficit twenty-eight points again 42-14.
One could only imagine the agonizing process the CFP Committee has to endure when evaluating this Auburn Team at certain times during the game they play as if though they are the best team in the country. At other times they struggle on basic plays and allow their opponents to linger today, they should have sealed this thing up at halftime.
Say what you want and do what you will a win is a win. I wonder how the committee will view their sluggish performance especially if another team ranked near them completely blowout their lesser opponent. The question is should a team ranked above them lose will they move up or be surpassed. Next up for the Auburn Tigers is BAMA, if the IRON BOWL was not enough. This one is for a special trip to the BENZ for SEC Championship.
Kerryon Johnson: On facing Alabama…
“It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere. It should be one for the ages, but we’ve got to come out and play because if we don’t we’ll lose. We’ve got to protect the ball. We’ve got to limit our penalties. We’ve got to execute, and I’m confident that we’ll come out on top if we do that.”
Should Auburn win, it would be a rematch with Georgia. Auburn has been sentenced to having to beat two #1 teams in the same year to earn a shot at the National Championship which will be played in the same Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Interesting Facts of the Game
Kerryon Johnson was the workhorse carrying the ball 22-137 yards for one touchdown. Kam Martin contributed 83 yards on the ground and Malik Willis had 64 yards rushing. The ground game was responsible for 317 yards. Jarrett Stidham connected on 18-24 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. The one interception wasn’t great but it was another solid performance.
ULM broke the one hundred yard barrier gaining 116 yards recall Sony Michel and Nick Chubb could only muster 48 yards.