AUBURN – Although things started out rocky for the Tigers, Auburn shook off the cobwebs and the rust to win its 2017 season opener, downing the Georgia Southern Golden Eagles by a score of 41 – 7.
Auburn looked impressive in its first drive of the 2017 season. The Tigers started the drive at their own 29 and moved the ball methodically down the field thanks to the arm of Jarrett Stidham and the legs of Kerryon Johnson. They looked poised to punch the ball in the end zone but a fumble by Stidham on third-and-4, which he recovered, forced the Tigers to try for a field goal. Daniel Carlson booted in the attempt from from 50 yards out to give Auburn a 3-0 lead.
After a Georgia Southern three-and-out, Auburn put together another strong drive lead by Johnson and Stidham. However the drive bogged down and the Tigers attempted a 53-yard field goal that went wide left. Georgia Southern could do nothing on its next drive and was forced to punt the ball back to Auburn. After just a 20-yard punt, Auburn took over on its own 40. It took just one play for Auburn to capitalize on the great field position as Johnson raced around right end for a 60-yard score. Carlson hit the PAT and put Auburn on top 10-0.
Georgia Southern got on the board for the first and only time at the end of the first quarter when Chris De La Rosa blindsided Stidham, causing a fumble. Tomarcio Reese scooped up the loose ball and raced 22 yards for the touchdown. The PAT made the score 10-7 after one quarter of play.
Auburn started the second quarter with a first-and-10 and the ball resting on its own 47. Johnson did the bulk of the work in the drive but again the Tigers were forced to attempt a field goal. Carlson uncharacteristically missed for his second time in the game, this time from 46 yards out, and again wide left. The Golden Eagles again went three-and-out and gave the ball right back to the Tigers who, after a 24-yard punt, took over on their own 42. Johnson started the drive with three straight rushes. However on the fourth, after picking up a big 34 yards, he fell to the ground, clutching the back of his leg. Auburn was first-and-10 from the Georgia Southern 12, but Johnson did not return to the game. Two plays later Stidham kept the ball himself, carrying it in from 14 yards out for the touchdown. Carlson added the PAT and put Auburn on top 17 – 7.
Auburn added a fourth score with 4:52 left to go in the half when Kam Martin busted a run off right tackle for 36 yards into the end zone. Carlson booted the extra point through and the Tigers went into halftime up 24 – 7.
Georgia Southern received the ball to start the second half but they were quickly forced to punt. Auburn took over on the 39 and went to work. The Tigers chewed up yardage on the back of Martin who carried the ball five times in the drive. Stidham capped the drive when he found Ryan Davis over the middle for a 19-yard touchdown pass. Carlson's PAT was good and Auburn was up 31-7. Carlson added his second field goal of the game, this one from 37 yards out, toward the end of the third to give Auburn the 34 -7 lead heading to the fourth.
With 9:18 left to go in the game, the Tigers scored for the sixth and final time when Stidham found Will Hastings in the left corner of the end zone for a 19-yard TD. Carlson's extra point was good and the Tigers took a 41-7 advantage, and that's where the score stood as Auburn cruised to victory.
The Tigers will get back to work Monday as they prepare for a tough test on the road against the defending national champion Clemson Tigers.
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