Auburn’s JaTarvious Whitlow burst through the middle and knocked back safety Jojo McIntosh during a 10-yard touchdown run, which proved to be the winning score as the No. 9 Tigers defeated No. 6 Washington 21-16 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Whitlow’s touchdown came with 6:15 left to play, still ample time for the Huskies. And it looked like they just might rally when Jake Browning scrambled for a first down to the Auburn 37-yard line.
But the Tigers’ defense slammed the door. A sack by Big Kat Bryant forced Washington into fourth-and-16. Then Browning was crushed again, avoiding a sack only because he flipped the ball into the offensive line at the last second.
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham passed for 273 yards and one touchdown for Auburn (1-0).
Browning passed for 296 yards for Huskies (0-1) and had one touchdown and one interception. Aaron Fuller had seven receptions for 135 yards.
The Tigers avoided what would have been a heart-breaking loss after having dominated the game for so much of the first half.
After trailing since Auburn’s first possession of the game, Washington took a 16-15 lead early in the fourth quarter on Peyton Henry’s 30-yard field goal.
McIntosh caught a huge break when he was called for targeting on an incomplete pass to Nate Craig-Meyers. But the call was reviewed and overturned.
Washington appeared to have taken the lead early in the third quarter when Browning found Fuller on a slant into the end zone. But the Huskies were called for pass interference, pushing them back to the 23. The Tigers escaped when they tipped a third-down pass, then tipped Henry’s 40-yard field goal attempt, preserving a two-point lead for Auburn.
The Huskies blew another chance to take the lead. A 20-yard catch by Ty Jones gave them first-and-goal at the 7. But on third-and-goal from the 3, a muffed pitch to Salvon Ahmed was recovered by Auburn’s Darrell Williams.
Auburn dominated most of the first half, yet went into intermission leading only 15-13. Penalties and a missed field goal attempt by Auburn, two big pass plays by Washington, and a curious decision by
Gus Malzahn to go for two after the Tigers’ first touchdown helped the Huskies keep the game close.
—Field Level Media