Nov 25, 2023; Auburn, Alabama, USA;  Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jermaine Burton (3) runs against Auburn Tigers safety Zion Puckett (10) for a touchdown at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

No. 8 Alabama survives Auburn on dramatic fourth down touchdown

Jalen Milroe hit Isaiah Bond for a 31-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 32 seconds remaining to give No. 8 Alabama a 27-24 win at Auburn on Saturday.

Alabama trailed 24-20 in the fourth quarter, but got the ball at the Auburn 30-yard line with 4:48 remaining after recovering a muffed punt by Auburn.

The Crimson Tide converted a fourth-and-1 from inside the Auburn 10-yard line on a 3-yard run by Roydell Williams, but then on second down, a snap went past Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe, who recovered it at the Auburn 26-yard line.

Facing a fourth-and-goal from the Auburn 31 after a penalty, Milroe threw a pass into the back left corner of the end zone to Bond, who snatched it out of the air for an improbable touchdown that turned out to be the winning score.

Alabama scored first, taking a 7-0 lead with 10:53 remaining in the first quarter on a 2-yard touchdown run by Williams.

Auburn answered later in the first, tying the game at 7-7 on a 4-yard touchdown run by Damari Alston with 5:00 to go in the first.

Following a 32-yard field goal with 14:09 left in the second quarter by Will Reichard that gave Alabama a 10-7 lead, Auburn grabbed a 14-10 lead on a 12-yard touchdown run by Ja’Varrius Johnson with 2:24 remaining in the second.

The lead was short-lived for Auburn, as Alabama took a 17-14 lead with 1:33 left in the second quarter on a 68-yard touchdown pass from Milroe to Jermaine Burton.

After Alabama took a 20-14 lead on a 22-yard field goal by Will Reichard, Auburn drove 75 yards in five plays and took a 21-20 lead on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Payton Thorne to Johnson.

Auburn took a 24-20 lead with 10:15 remaining on a 21-yard field goal by Alex McPherson.

–Field Level Media

Auburn Tigers quarterback Payton Thorne (1) scrambles up the middle as Auburn Tigers take on New Mexico State Aggies at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. New Mexico State Aggies leads Auburn Tigers 10-7 at halftime.

Diego Pavia leads New Mexico St. to shocking win over Auburn

Behind three touchdown passes from quarterback Diego Pavia, New Mexico State earned its first-ever win over an SEC team by upsetting Auburn 31-10 on the road Saturday afternoon in Auburn, Ala.

Auburn was a 25.5-point favorite.

Pavia completed 19 of 28 passes for 201 yards and rushed for 35 yards for an Aggies offense that maintained possession for 38:50 minutes.

Star Thomas (67 yards) and Makhilyn Young (76 yards and a score) paced the Aggies’ (9-3) ground attack. Kordell David had four receptions for 55 yards and a score. Eli Stowers added four receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown in addition to his 19 yards on the ground.

New Mexico State’s defense limited Auburn (6-5) to 213 total yards and just 11 first downs.

Payton Thorne passed for 148 yards and a touchdown and added 38 yards on the ground for Auburn. Jarquez Hunter was limited to 27 yards rushing. Rivaldo Fairweather paced the Tigers’ passing attack with three receptions for 44 yards and their only TD.

New Mexico State jumped out to a 7-0 first-quarter lead when Pavia found David in the corner of the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown pass on its opening possession.

Auburn tied the game at 7-all when Fairweather capped an 11-play, 81-yard drive with a 32-yard scoring reception. An unnecessary roughness penalty with the Tigers facing a third-and-15 kept the drive alive.

An Ethan Albertson 40-yard field goal gave New Mexico State a 10-7 lead with 31 seconds remaining until halftime.

The Aggies pushed their lead to 17-7 on their opening possession of the second half when Thomas capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive with a 17-yard scoring reception.

A fake field goal to start the fourth quarter moved New Mexico State deep into Auburn territory. After a controversial fumble by Pavia that was ruled down by replay, the Aggies maintained possession and faced a second-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Three plays later, Pavia connected with Stowers for a 2-yard touchdown.

A 48-yard field goal by Alex McPherson and a 2-yard Young TD run capped the scoring.

–Field Level Media

Nov 11, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA;  Auburn Tigers quarterback Payton Thorne (1) rolls out to pass during the second quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Before Iron Bowl, Auburn not overlooking New Mexico State

Two bowl-eligible teams riding win streaks will meet when New Mexico State visits Auburn on Saturday afternoon.

The Aggies (8-3, 6-1 Conference USA) have won six straight and seven of eight behind dynamic dual-threat quarterback Diego Pavia and a scrappy defense.

Pavia has passed for 2,257 yards and 19 touchdowns with just six interceptions and has rushed for a team-high 703 yards and five scores through 11 games.

In last week’s 38-29 win over Western Kentucky, Pavia passed for two touchdowns and ran for 44 yards to pace a New Mexico State offense that rushed for 236 yards.

Safety Mehki Miller became the first Aggie to score a defensive touchdown this season when he picked off Austin Reed and raced 57 yards to pay dirt. The play sealed all hopes of a Hilltoppers comeback and helped New Mexico State clinch a berth in the C-USA title game in Jerry Kill’s second season as head coach.

“I’m just kind of in shock really, but it means the world to do it with these kids and in Las Cruces,” Kill said. “Having it happen so quickly, we’re still not where we need to be and here but we are playing for the conference championship.”

Auburn (6-4, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) became bowl-eligible after it turned in its most complete performance of the season in a 48-10 road win over Arkansas.

Payton Thorne threw three touchdown passes and ran for 88 yards and a score. Jarquez Hunter surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark for the third straight game (109), while Rivaldo Fairweather added two scoring receptions. Auburn’s defense recorded five sacks and forced two fumbles and Keionte Scott returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown.

Although it was the Tigers’ third straight win, Hugh Freeze doesn’t want his team overlooking New Mexico State before its meeting with rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 25.

“We’ll talk about it today in our team meeting, and that’ll be my message,” Freeze said earlier this week. “We won’t talk about the other team that you mentioned (Alabama); we’ll talk about the one we have right in front of us that could sting us. And I’ve experienced that before.”

–Field Level Media

Auburn quarterback Payton Thorne (1) runs the ball against Vanderbilt during the first quarter at FirstBank Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.

Auburn cruises to 31-15 win over Vanderbilt

Jarquez Hunter rushed for 183 yards and had two long first-quarter touchdown runs, helping visiting Auburn open up an early lead it never relinquished in a 31-15 win at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn.

Auburn (5-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) quarterback Payton Thorne passed for 194 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Vanderbilt (2-8, 0-6) totaled just 266 yards of offense, played two quarterbacks and didn’t go over 100 yards of total offense until just under four minutes remained in the third quarter.

The Commodores were 2 of 14 on third downs and were sacked five times.

After Vanderbilt was flagged for pass interference on third down, Thorne hit a wide-open Rivaldo Fairweather for a 53-yard touchdown to put Auburn up 24-7 with 13:36 remaining in the third quarter.

After another of Vandy’s seven punts, the Tigers tacked on more when Thorne hit Jeremiah Cobb with a shovel pass for a 5-yard score with 9:44 left in the third.

Vandy got its first offensive touchdown when Ken Seals found freshman Junior Sherrill across the middle for a 30-yard score that preceded Jayden McGowan’s 2-point conversion rush.

The Commodores forced a punt and drove to the Auburn 11. But a sack pushed Vandy back, setting up an unsuccessful fourth-and-15 with 5:48 left in the game.

Auburn’s Nehemiah Pritchett intercepted Seals with 1:50 left.

The Tigers had 226 yards to Vandy’s 93 in taking a 17-7 halftime lead.

Auburn’s Hunter ran through a gaping hole between center and left guard, dashing 67 yards for a touchdown exactly five minutes in on the Tigers’ second snap.

Hunter later found a hole on the right side of center, broke a few arm tackles and rumbled 56 yards for another touchdown at 3:01 of the first.

Vandy finally got on the board when Bryce Cowan jumped a Thorne pass at the Auburn 4 and easily scored with 12:15 left in the second quarter.

The Tigers had first-and-goal from the Vandy 3 inside the first half’s final minute. But a personal foul pushed Auburn back and eventually forced Alex McPherson’s 32-yard field goal with 20 seconds left.

Vanderbilt has now lost eight straight.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Payton Thorne (1) rolls out to pass against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the fourth quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn hopes offense builds on progress vs. skidding Vanderbilt

Auburn hopes to inch closer to bowl eligibility when it visits Vanderbilt on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.

The Tigers (4-4, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) had their best offensive performance in league play in last Saturday’s 27-13 win over Mississippi State. Quarterback Payton Thorne was 20 of 26 for 230 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Running back Jarquez Hunter had 170 yards from scrimmage (144 rushing, 26 receiving) on 19 touches.

Coach Hugh Freeze had rotated quarterbacks, but Robby Ashford had less involvement in the offense (no pass attempts, two rushes for 8 yards) than in any Auburn game this season.

“Offensively, it was our best-balanced performance, for sure,” Freeze said. “It was good to see our receivers make some plays and our quarterback play with some confidence.”

This week offers a chance at continued improvement for Auburn. Vanderbilt ranks last in the SEC in total defense (436.8) and scoring defense (34.2).

But offense was also a problem for Vandy (2-7, 0-5) in last week’s 33-7 defeat at Ole Miss.

It appeared that quarterback Ken Seals — who began the season as the backup, but had started the last three games — had won the job, but coach Clark Lea pulled Seals for Walter Taylor in the first half before returning briefly to Seals, then back to Taylor.

Taylor threw the first 12 passes of his career, completing four for 38 yards, and was intercepted once.

Lea’s hope was that Taylor would boost the team’s struggling rushing attack (92.8 yards per game, 3.4 yards per carry). The 6-foot-7, 235-pound sophomore had team highs in rushes (20) and rushing yards (59) last week, and scored the team’s only TD.

This week’s depth chart has the pair listed as co-starters, with Seals listed first.

“As far as this Saturday, I don’t know if I would be a good coach if I discussed the plan,” Lea said.

The Tigers have been solid defensively, ranking sixth in the SEC in scoring defense (22.5) and 10th in total defense (368.4).

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Auburn, Alabama, USA;  Auburn Tigers tight end Rivaldo Fairweather (13) is flipped up by Mississippi State Bulldogs cornerback Brice Pollock (34) during the first quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Payton Thorne (3 TDs), Auburn knock off Mississippi State

Behind three touchdown passes from Payton Thorne, Auburn rolled to a 27-13 win over visiting Mississippi State on Saturday.

Thorne got most of the snaps behind center and completed 20 of 26 passes for 230 yards. He added 38 yards on the ground.

Jarquez Hunter led the Tigers in carries (17) and yards (144) and had two receptions for 26 yards.

Ja’Varrius Johnson, Shane Hooks and Jeremiah Cobb were on the receiving end of Thorne’s touchdown passes. Johnson led Auburn (4-4, 1-4 SEC West) with two receptions for 59 yards.

Mike Wright started in place of Will Rogers for the second consecutive game and completed 16 of 32 passes for 161 yards and a score, with one interception. He also added 14 carries for 63 yards.

Seth Davis added seven carries for 62 yards for the Bulldogs (4-4, 1-4). Zavion Thomas led MSU receivers with nine receptions for 112 yards and a score.

Auburn jumped out to a 7-0 lead on its opening drive when Thorne connected with Hooks for a 27-yard touchdown pass.

The Bulldogs trimmed the Tigers’ lead to 7-3 on their ensuing possession when Kyle Ferrie capped an 11-play, 65-yard drive with a 29-yard field goal with 6:14 to play in the opening quarter.

But Auburn answered quickly on its ensuing possession when Thorne hit Johnson streaking down the left side of the field for a 45-yard catch and score.

Alex McPherson put the Tigers up 17-3 with 7:23 to play until halftime when he capped a six-play, 31-yard drive with a 39-yard field goal.

After stopping Mississippi State on a fourth-and-1 with 1:18 to play until halftime, Auburn marched down the field and took a commanding 24-3 lead on a 7-yard scoring reception by Cobb.

The Bulldogs cut the Tigers’ lead to 24-6 on their opening drive of the second half when Ferrie’s 40-yard field goal capped a 12-play, 50-yard drive.

Auburn extended the lead to 27-6 on a 49-yard field goal by McPherson, but a 14-yard touchdown reception by Thomas trimmed the lead to 27-13 early in the fourth quarter.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Mike Wright (14) throws a pass against Arkansas Razorbacks defensive lineman Trajan Jeffcoat (7) during the first quarter at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Sputtering offenses collide when Mississippi State travels to Auburn

Two offensively challenged teams will hook up when Auburn hosts Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon.

After a 7-3 road win over Arkansas last week, Zach Arnett’s Bulldogs (4-3, 1-3 SEC) enter the matchup with the Tigers ranked 12th in the 14-team SEC in total offense (351.1 yards per game) and 11th in scoring offense (26.9 points per game).

With starting quarterback Will Rogers out last week due to a shoulder injury, backup Mike Wright got the first start of his career — and delivered.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound dual threat completed just 8 of 12 passes for 85 yards and an interception, but his 2-yard second-quarter touchdown pass to Jo’Quavious Marks turned out to be all Mississippi State needed to secure a win. Wright also led the Bulldogs in rushing with 60 yards on 11 carries, proving his ability as a runner.

Whether Rogers or Wright gets the start against Auburn (3-4, 0-4 SEC), Arnett knows his team will face a challenge against a capable Tigers team despite their winless record in conference play.

“They play really good on defense,” Arnett said. “I’ve always admired coach (Ron) Roberts’ scheme. Brilliant mind coordinating the defense. Coach Freeze has always been a great offensive mind. The athleticism at quarterback jumps off. Run game is very physical. It’s a big, strong, athletic football team. We’ll have to be on our game.”

Following a 28-21 home loss to then-13th-ranked Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze’s Tigers sit 13th in the SEC in total offense (337.0 YPG), last in passing offense (151.0 YPG) and 12th in scoring (26.7 PPG).

Despite ranking fourth in the SEC in rushing (186.0 YPG) behind the running ability of quarterbacks Robby Ashford and Payton Thorne and tailback Jarquez Hunter (309 yards and five touchdowns on 72 carries), Freeze is doing everything in his power to get an air attack that ranks 121st in college football going.

“It’s obvious we can get better,” Freeze said. “We should be able to get better. That will be the goal. My focus will be on that this week.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Auburn, Alabama, USA;  Mississippi Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart (2) carries against the Auburn Tigers during the first quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

No. 13 Mississippi holds off upset-minded Auburn

Jaxson Dart threw for 202 yards and rushed for two touchdowns Saturday night as No. 13 Ole Miss pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 28-21 Southeastern Conference win over Auburn in Auburn, Ala.

Dart snapped a 14-14 tie on the last play of the third quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run, capping an 89-yard drive. On their next possession, the Rebels (6-1, 3-1) marched 68 yards and took just over five minutes off the clock before Quinshon Judkins powered up the middle for a 4-yard scoring run with 7:51 left in the game.

The Tigers (3-4, 0-4) got within a touchdown with 56 seconds remaining when Payton Thorne found Rivaldo Fairweather with an 8-yard touchdown pass. However, Dayton Wade recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the outcome and give Ole Miss just its second win in its last 10 visits to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Judkins rushed for a game-high 124 yards on 21 carries for the Rebels, who outgained Auburn 425 to 275 and owned an advantage of just over eight minutes in time of possession. Tre Harris caught four passes for 102 yards.

The Tigers rotated Thorne and Robbie Ashford at quarterback but neither could consistently move a struggling offense. Thorne was 9-of-13 for 100 yards with an interception, while Ashford completed 3 of 4 attempts for 22 yards with an interception.

Ole Miss initiated scoring at the 4:55 mark of the first quarter when Dart, who finished 10-of-17, hit Zakhari Franklin with an 11-yard touchdown pass. Auburn tied it less than two minutes later when Jarquez Hunter ripped off a 53-yard scoring jaunt.

Dart restored a seven-point lead for the Rebels when he kept it on a fourth-and-1 play and zipped 29 yards with 24 seconds left in the period. But his interception on Ole Miss’ next possession gave the Tigers a 24-yard field that they cashed in with Hunter’s 1-yard touchdown run 11:44 before halftime, evening the score at 14.

–Field Level Media

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels 5 throws a pass as the LSU Tigers take on the Auburn Tigers at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023.

Auburn proves no match for No. 22 LSU, losing 48-18

Jayden Daniels passed for 325 yards and three touchdowns and No. 22 LSU blew out Auburn 48-18 in an SEC game Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.

Daniels completed 20 of 27 passes and added 93 rushing yards. He led LSU (5-2, 4-1 SEC) to a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, and Auburn (3-3, 0-3) never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

Kyren Lacy had 111 receiving yards and one touchdown on four receptions, and Logan Diggs added 97 rushing yards and a touchdown for LSU, which outgained Auburn 563-293.

Robby Ashford replaced Payton Thorne at quarterback for Auburn to start the second half and led a drive that made it to the LSU 18 before stalling. Alex McPherson kicked a 38-yard field goal to pull Auburn within 20-10.

Kaleb Jackson returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the Auburn 39, leading to Daniels’ 25-yard touchdown pass to Lacy for a 27-10 lead.

Daniels and Lacy teamed for a 57-yard completion on the first play of the next possession, leading to Daniels’ 13-yard touchdown pass to Josh Williams for a 34-10 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Thorne, who returned after a one-possession absence, drove Auburn to a goal-to-go opportunity, and on the first play of the fourth quarter, Ashford came in and threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Frazier. The duo teamed on a two-point conversion that trimmed the lead to 34-18.

Diggs ran 5 yards for a touchdown, and Williams completed the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run.

LSU received the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards, scoring a touchdown on a 29-yard completion from Daniels to Malik Nabers.

Damian Ramos kicked a 30-yard field goal on LSU’s second possession, and John Emery Jr. ran 2 yards for a touchdown on the third possession for the 17-0 lead.

On the second play of the second quarter. Jarquez Hunter’s 2-yard touchdown run produced Auburn’s first points, before Ramos’ 35-yard field goal gave LSU a 20-7 lead that stood through halftime.

–Field Level Media

Oct 7, 2023; Columbia, Missouri, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) drops back to pass against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Jayden Daniels looks to stay hot as No. 22 LSU, Auburn clash

No. 22 LSU’s high-scoring offense has been more balanced over the last two weeks.

Auburn’s offense is trying to do the same as these two sets of Tigers prepare to meet in a Southeastern Conference game on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.

Jayden Daniels has been one of the most productive offensive players in the country for LSU (4-2, 3-1 SEC). He has been named SEC Offensive Player of the Week three times this season and leads a unit that ranks third best in the FBS in total offense (548.3 yards per game).

“The offense continues to do some great things,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said. “The offense is playing at an incredible level.”

So is Daniels, who also is the team’s No. 2 rusher. He completed 15 of 21 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns while adding 130 yards and a score on the ground in last Saturday’s 49-39 victory over Missouri.

“I see those little things that he’s doing under duress or under pressure or getting hit after he throws a very accurate ball are starting to separate him from good to great,” Kelly said of Daniels.

The offense was pass-heavy in the first few games of the season, but running back Logan Diggs has had back-to-back 100-yard rushing games to provide Daniels with some support.

But slowing other teams down has started to become an issue, as LSU is allowing opponents to put up 445.7 yards per game, ranking 121st in total defense in the FBS.

Kelly remains optimistic, though.

“We feel there’s some light there at the end of the tunnel for our defense,” Kelly said after Missouri scored just 14 second-half points last Saturday.

After playing four of its first six games away from home, facing ranked opponents in three of those contests, LSU will play five of its last six games at home.

“We’re right in the hunt and the season is in front of us,” Kelly said.

Unlike LSU, Auburn (3-2, 0-2) has leaned on its running game on offense, which ranks 13th in total yards per game (358.2) in the 14-team SEC.

“I do think you need to be balanced to win big games,” Auburn coach Hugh Freeze said. “That’s been a challenge for us to this point. We got to shorten this game (against LSU).”

Auburn is coming off a bye week after a hard-fought 27-20 home loss to No. 1 Georgia on Sept. 30.

Freeze said he and his staff spent time during the open week “trying to make sure our identity — particularly in the passing game — matches our personnel.

“Whatever we feel strongly in that,” Freeze continued, “then let’s do it over and over and over and over and over again until we are really, really confident and are really, really good at that.”

Freeze noted that Ole Miss’ and Missouri’s approach was to let their high-powered offenses try to outscore LSU in a shootout.

“But I think their makeup is a little different offensively,” Freeze said. “I’m not sure that is the plan for us.”

As evidence of that, Auburn’s Payton Thorne is ranked last among SEC starting quarterbacks in passer rating.

–Field Level Media