The Auburn Tigers are seeking a 2-0 start as they look to make last season’s disastrous finish a distant memory when they host San Jose State on Saturday.
Quarterback T.J. Finley threw for a touchdown and running backs Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter combined for five scores on the ground as the host Tigers rolled to a 42-16 win over FCS opponent Mercer last week.
Last season, Bryan Harsin’s Tigers became the first Auburn team in 71 years to end a season with five consecutive defeats. They finished 6-7 after losing to Houston in the Birmingham Bowl and endured an offseason in which Harsin’s future was very much in doubt.
The Tigers’ biggest question mark is at quarterback where junior Finley was 9-for-14 passing for 112 yards with a touchdown against Mercer. But his two interceptions opened the door for Robby Ashford, a transfer from Oregon, to get playing time. Ashford went 4-for-7 passing for 100 yards and rushed for 68 yards on just six carries.
Harsin said Finley will start against San Jose State (1-0), but Ashford will be involved in the game plan.
“Everyone feels like if there’s two guys playing, there’s some controversy,” Harsin said. “If they’re good enough to play, then we should find a role for them.”
Regardless of who is under center, expect Bigsby and Hunter to get the ball frequently in Auburn’s run-oriented offense.
Bigsby rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries — an average of 9.2 yards per attempt — while Hunter had 34 yards and three touchdowns on eight carries.
Nine Tigers had at least one carry, as Auburn rushed for 285 yards and five scores on 41 attempts, an average of seven yards a carry.
San Jose State rallied for a 21-17 win over visiting Portland State when quarterback Chevan Cordeiro’s two-yard run with 1:11 left capped a six-play, 32-yard drive that gave his team the lead for good.
Cordeiro completed 15 of 30 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown, while Elijah Cooks had six catches for 123 yards and Kairee Robinson added 35 yards on 10 carries.
However, the Spartans gave up seven sacks and mustered just 49 rushing yards on 29 carries, an average of 1.7 yards per attempt against Portland State.
“It’s going to be an incredible environment,” San Jose State coach Brent Brennan said of playing at Jordan-Hare Stadium. “We are expecting a really tough game. We have to play clean football and that’s the biggest challenge.”
–Field Level Media