Auburn Tigers hang on late to beat Louisville 31-24

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, left, walks off the field with Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson (6) after the second half of an NCAA college football game against Louisville, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Atlanta. Auburn won 31-24. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA (AP) – Will Muschamp’s defense made a couple of huge plays early for No. 6 Auburn to offset three interceptions by Jeremy Johnson, and the Tigers held off Louisville and surprise quarterback Lamar Jackson for a 31-24 victory Saturday.

The Tigers’ first touchdown in the season opener was set up by an interception. Justin Garrett returned a fumble 82 yards to make it 14-0.

That’s just what Auburn wanted out of Muschamp,

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, left, speaks with Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino before the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, left, speaks with Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino before the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Not that it was smooth sailing for the Tigers, who led 17-0 at halftime and seemed to be up comfortably 31-10 after a touchdown with just over 10 minutes remaining.

Jackson, a freshman who got the bulk of the playing time over three more experienced quarterbacks, led the Cardinals to a couple of late touchdowns that made Auburn sweat it out.

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino did not name a starting quarterback before the game, his decision seemingly confirmed when he sent out sophomore Reggie Bonnafon for the first snap. But barely noticed, Jackson also took the field. The direct snap to him was botched, he wound up scrambling to his right and threw a desperation pass that was picked off by Tray Matthews. He returned it 35 yards to the Louisville 26, setting up Johnson’s 1-yard touchdown run.

Bonnafon played into the second quarter before giving way to Jackson for good. The freshman was 9 of 20 passing for 100 yards. He also led the Cardinals in rushing with 106 yards on 16 carries, including a 10-yard touchdown late in the third quarter for Louisville’s first TD.

Related: Auburn players react to win over Louisville

Even though he spent the last two years behind Nick Marshall, Johnson came into the season hyped as one of the potential breakout stars in coach Gus Malzahn’s explosive spread offense. He was only 11 of 21 for 127 yards, though he did have a 33-yard touchdown pass to Ricardo Louis.

Muschamp’s defense that set the early tone for the Tigers.

The biggest play came midway through the second quarter when Louisville was driving. Bonnafon fumbled an attempted handoff, Garrett scooped it up at the 18, and off he went the other way for the touchdown, Muschamp running with him nearly stride for stride along the sideline.

Johnson was picked off twice in the first half by former Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, who sat out last season after transferring to Louisville. The Auburn quarterback was also intercepted by Trumaine Washington in the third quarter, foolishly trying to force a pass into coverage. That led to Jackson’s TD run that made it 24-10.

The Tigers appeared to wrap in up when Louis scampered 7 yards for a touchdown with 10:04 left.

Brandon Radcliff’s 2-yard scoring run cut the deficit to a mere touchdown with 2:59 remaining.

Auburn recovered the onside kick and managed to run out the clock.

GAME STATS:

No. 6 AUBURN 31, LOUISVILLE 24
Louisville001014-24
Auburn71077-31
First Quarter
Aub_Je.Johnson 1 run (Carlson kick), 12:49.

Second Quarter
Aub_Garrett 82 fumble return (Carlson kick), 6:54.

Aub_FG Carlson 56, :34.

Third Quarter

Auburn linebacker JaViere Mitchell (16) wears the Old Leather Helmet trophy after the second half of an NCAA college football game against Louisville, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Atlanta. Auburn won 31-24. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Auburn linebacker JaViere Mitchell (16) wears the Old Leather Helmet trophy after the second half of an NCAA college football game against Louisville, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Atlanta. Auburn won 31-24. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Aub_Louis 33 pass from Je.Johnson (Carlson kick), 11:21.

Lou_FG Wallace 43, 7:07.

Lou_Jackson 10 run (Wallace kick), 1:21.

Fourth Quarter
Aub_Louis 8 run (Carlson kick), 10:04.

Lou_Radcliff 2 run (Wallace kick), 6:21.

Lou_Radcliff 2 run (Wallace kick), 2:59.

A_73,927.

___

LouAub
First downs 27 21
Rushes-yards 48-238 41-190
Passing 167 137
Comp-Att-Int 17-33-1 11-21-3
Return Yards 20 33
Punts-Avg. 3-39.3 2-47.0
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 5-35 8-80
Time of Possession 30:50 29:10
___

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING_Louisville, Jackson 16-106, Radcliff 17-76, Samuel 1-21,

Je.Smith 5-20, Bonnafon 8-14, Scott 1-1. Auburn, Barber 24-115,

R.Thomas 6-27, Louis 4-21, Robinson 2-16, Je.Johnson 5-11.

PASSING_Louisville, Jackson 9-20-1-100, Bonnafon 8-13-0-67. Auburn,

Je.Johnson 11-21-3-137.

RECEIVING_Louisville, Quick 4-28, Peete 3-60, Ja.Smith 3-34,

Samuel 2-22, Crum 2-19, Standberry 1-6, Savage 1-2,

Radcliff 1-(minus 4). Auburn, Louis 3-54, D’.Williams 3-40, Ray 2-19,

Barber 1-15, J.Smith 1-7, M.Davis 1-2.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

ATLANTA, Ga. (WIAT) — A running report from the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Georgia Dome.

1st quarter: (12:49) Jeremy Johnson keeps it for a 1 yard touchdown run. Tigers lead 7-0.

After one quarter of play in Atlanta the Auburn Tigers lead Louisville 7-0.

2nd quarter: (6:54) Auburn scores on a Louisville fumbled hand-off. Tigers lead 14-0.

Auburn wide receiver D'haquille Williams (1) runs as Louisville safety Chucky Williams (22) (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Auburn wide receiver D’haquille Williams (1) runs as Louisville safety Chucky Williams (22) (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

2nd quarter: (:34) Auburn’s Daniel Carlson hits 56 yard field goal. Tigers lead 17-0.

Halftime: Auburn leads 17-0 at halftime. Tigers will receive the ball in the second half.

3rd quarter: (11:21) Jeremy Johnson completes 33 yard pass to Ricardo Louis for the touchdown.

3rd quarter: (7:07) Louisville’s John Wallace hits 43 yard field goal. Tigers lead 24-3.

3rd quarter: (1:21) Louisville’s Lamar Jackson rushes for 10 yard touchdown. Tigers lead 24-10.

After three quarters of play in Atlanta the Auburn Tigers lead Louisville 24-10.

4th quarter: (10:04) Ricardo Louis runs in 8 yard touchdown. Tigers lead 31-10.

4th quarter: (6:21) Louisville’s Brandon Radcliff scores on 2 yard run. Tigers lead 31-17.

4th quarter: (2:59) Louisville’s Brandon Radcliff scores on another 2 yard run. Tigers lead 31-24.

Auburn holds on to win 31-24. 

Related: Auburn’s Will Muschamp ready to get Tigers defense on the field

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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