AUBURN, Ala. (AP) – Auburn dodged an upset that would have ranked with the biggest in college football history, riding a dramatic touchdown catch in the final minute followed by Peyton Barber’s overtime touchdown run to a 27-20 win over Jacksonville State on Saturday.
Barber, making his first start at tailback, ran for 125 yards. The most important came on his 4-yard scoring run to cap No. 6 Auburn’s first possession in overtime.
Troymaine Pope’s 5-yard touchdown run with less than 6 minutes remaining gave the Gamecocks a 20-13 lead.
Jacksonville State (1-1) lost its bid to become the first Football Championship Subdivision team to beat a ranked FBS team since Aug. 31, 2013, when Eastern Washington beat No. 25 Oregon State 49-46. An Auburn loss would have compared with No. 5 Michigan’s loss to Appalachian State on Sept. 3, 2007.
Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson threw two interceptions, giving him five in two games. Auburn (2-0) also was hurt by a lost fumble by running back Roc Thomas, ending the Tigers’ attempt to answer Pope’s go-ahead touchdown.
After the Tigers moved to the Gamecocks 20, Thomas’ fumble was recovered by defensive tackle Randy Robinson with about 3 minutes remaining.
A 17-yard punt by Jacksonville State’s Hamish MacInnes gave Auburn the ball in great field position at the Gamecocks 31 with 2 minutes remaining.
Melvin Ray’s leaping 10-yard catch in the right corner of the end zone with less than 1 minute remaining in regulation saved Auburn from a stunning loss.
It was the first meeting of the Alabama schools located only 108 miles apart. Jacksonville State played even with Auburn, the highest-ranked opponent in the program’s history.
Auburn struggled to stop the Gamecocks offense, led by quarterback Eli Jenkins’ runs, throws and fakes.
Jenkins’ 11-yard touchdown pass to Josh Barge gave Jacksonville State a 10-6 halftime lead, and the visiting fans chanted “JSU! JSU!” as the teams left the field.
Auburn appeared to have regained momentum with a strong start to the second half capped by Johnson’s 51-yard touchdown pass to Roc Thomas. But Jacksonville State tied the game at 13-13 and linebacker Dawson Wells’ interception of Johnson’s pass set up the Gamecocks’ go-ahead drive.
Jenkins completed 26 of 43 passes for 277 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He ran for 37 yards.
Johnson was 21 of 32 for 236 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Coach Gus Malzahn insisted after the game Johnson is Auburn’s starter.
AUBURN, Ala. (WIAT) — A running log for the Auburn Tigers home opener against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks.
1st: (3:06) Auburn’s Daniel Carlson hits 27 yard FG. Tigers lead 3-0.
End of the 1st Auburn leads 3-0
2nd: (13:29) JSU’s Connor Rouleau hits 32 yard FG. Game tied 3-3.
2nd: (9:55) Auburn’s Daniel Carlson hits 49 yard FG. Tigers lead 6-3.
2nd: (5:31) JSU’s Eli Jenkins hits Josh Barge for 11 yard TD. Gamecocks lead 10-6.
JSU leads Auburn 10-6 at the half.
3rd: (8:27) Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson finds Roc Thomas for 51 yard TD. Tigers lead 13-10.
Auburn leads JSU 13-10 at the end of 3 quarters.
4th: (10:43) JSU’s Connor Rouleau hits 26 yard FG. Game tied 13-13.
4th: (5:38) JSU scores on 5 yard TD run. JSU leads 20-13.
4th: (:39) Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson finds Melvin Ray for the TD. Game tied 20-20.
Game tied at end of regulation.
1st OT: Auburn’s Peyton Barber punches it in for the TD. Tigers lead 27-20.
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