The Auburn Tigers narrowly avoided disaster on Saturday, eking out a 34-24 win against the Georgia State Panthers at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn were either tied or trailed Georgia State for 59 minutes of gametime, before finally breaking through in the final minute. But we’ll get back to that in a minute. First, let’s look at how things got to that point.
The very first quarter should have been a sign that things were going to be problematic for the Tigers. Auburn had two drives end in field goals, and the other end in a punt. Georgia State added a field goal of their own in the first quarter to make it 6-3 going into the second frame.
It felt like it was just a matter of time before Auburn got going, as they were playing a home game against a Sun Belt opponent, and generally these things have a way of working themselves out. However, it didn’t happen here. Georgia State found the end zone three times in the second quarter, while Auburn tacked on two more field goals. Georgia State took a 24-12 lead into the half.
It seemed like the break would benefit the Tigers and they would come back out motivated and ready to turn the game around. They didn’t, for most of the quarter, but late in the third, Auburn blocked a Georgia State punt and took it to the end zone to cut the lead to 24-19.
Following the punt block touchdown, Auburn stepped up defensively for a three and out, and then something surprising happened: TJ Finley came onto the field to play quarterback, replacing Bo Nix. Finley led a drive down the field to open the fourth quarter, but it ended with a missed field goal for the Tigers. The teams traded the ball back and forth until a Georgia State punt gave Auburn the ball at their own two yard line with 3:23 to play. Finley led Auburn all the way down the field, ending in a 10 yard touchdown pass to Shedrick Jackson with 45 seconds to play. The Tigers converted the two-point conversion and went up 27-24, their first lead of the game.
Georgia State took a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, then threw an incompletion, then Smoke Monday hauled in an interception for Auburn and took it to the endzone, making it 34-24 and sealing the win for the Tigers.
Auburn seems to have a quarterback controversy now, as Finley finished 9-16 with 96 yards and a touchdown in just a quarter of action, compared to Nix putting up a 13-27, 156 yard performance in three quarters. If Finley gets the start next week, it will be fitting, as the Tigers play LSU, where Finley transferred from.