Auburn, Ala.--After an uneven opening quarter performance the Auburn Tigers put their foot on the gas and raced away from San Jose State on the way to a 59-13 football victory on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Tigers scored 14 more points than they did in the opener vs. Arkansas, but finished with 493 yards, 102 less than they managed against the Razorbacks.
The drop in offensive production came in the passing game. Auburn completed just 13-23 passes for 135 yards. Starter Nick Marshall was off target at times, finishing the night with 101 yards as he hit 10-19 throws.
Asked to rate his performance, Marshall said, "It was average. I could have done better. A couple of throws I missed are ones that I make in practice. I just have to step up in there (the pocket) and make those throws."
However, Marshall did top the century mark as a rusher. He ran the ball 11 times for 103 yards, second on the team behind Cameron Artis-Payne, who finished with 112.
Both Marshall and Artis-Payne personally out-gained the visitors from California, who netted just 65 yards on 45 carries.
The Tigers ran the ball 50 times for 358 yards, which was just fine with Artis-Payne. “Whatever Coach (Gus) Malzahn calls we are going to run,” the senior said. “He is a genius as far as picking apart defenses and seeing their weaknesses.”
Artis-Payne noted the Tigers feature a balanced offense. “We go with whatever the defense gives us,” he said. “If they give us the run, we are going to run. If they give us the pass, we are going to pass.”
The senior running back gave credit to his blockers for his second consecutive 100-yard game. “The offensive line wanted to come out and be real physical today, and that’s what they did," he said. "They created a lot of holes, and that was the major thing we wanted to work on.”
The Tigers improved to 2-0 while San Jose State dropped to 1-1 in its first ever game vs. the Tigers.
San Jose State Coach Ron Caragher said he liked his team’s effort. “I told the players there is no need to hang your head. I thought we played hard. We came out fast and played some pretty good football.
“I think there were some really good experiences, some valuable lessons,” the coach added. “I am thankful for the opportunity to play this game. There are some encouraging things that we can learn from and go back and watch, but all-in-all it was a good football team and when you play them you have to play flawless football, and it kind of got away there.”
Auburn’s Malzahn said he thought his team got better and was pleased with the offense converting 10-14 third downs and scoring points on a special teams play.
“We are excited to be 2-0 with a win at home,” he said. “Our crowd was unbelievable again. It really helped us out. We had positives tonight. We had three interceptions on defense.
“One of the big positives all night was our punt return for a touchdown. That was a well-executed play. Quan Bray was breaking a few tackles. That was a big play. The two fumbles we have to correct. Overall, I am extremely happy to be 2-0 and have that one behind us.”
On the first five plays the Tigers hurt their own cause when Marshall fumbled the football into the end zone for a touchback and a facemask penalty on the next play negated a lost fumble by San Jose State.
On Auburn’s second possession of the game Marshall hit his first touchdown pass of the season with 8:15 left in the opening quarter. Facing third and goal at the four, the Tigers faked a sweep to the left with Corey Grant and Ricardo Louis released on the right side of the formation and was uncovered for a short toss from Marshall to score from four yards out.
Auburn’s drive of 67 yards on 11 plays was immediately matched by a 75-yard touchdown pass play by the visitors. Tyler Ervin got past cornerback Josh Holsey on a pump fake by quarterback Blake Jurich and after catching the pass he ran by safety Johnathan Ford to tie the game.
The Tigers took just 2:14 to regain the lead. Louis almost broke the kickoff for a score, but was tackled at the 40 by the kicker. Eight plays later Cameron Artis-Payne scored on a two-yard run with 5:31 left in the opening quarter.
In the second quarter Auburn dominated the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense to stretch the margin to 38-10 by halftime.
Auburn scored touchdowns on drives of 45 and 56 yards and added a 27-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson on the final play of the half after moving 41 yards following an interception by Johnathan Ford.
Special teams and the defense contributed in a major way in the second quarter. Bray scored on a 55-yard punt return, Jermaine Whitehead added his second interception of the season while Montravius Adams and Gabe Wright sacked quarterback Blake Jurich.
Montravius Adams makes a sack for the Tigers.
Halftime Numbers: The Tigers held a 321-180 lead in total offense with 237 yards on the ground on 29 carries. Marshall hit 8-16 passes for 84 yards. The Spartans completed 11-17 passes for 144 yards and netted 36 more yards on 22 carries.
The Tigers weren’t sharp to open the third quarter and scored just once in the period. After a field goal by the Spartans to cut the lead to 38-13 with 2:52 left in the period, it look the Tigers just five plays to move the ball 67 yards as they scored on a 27-yard draw play by Marshall.
Jeremy Johnson took over at quarterback after that and led the Tigers to a drive that covered 37 yards on eight plays. The sophomore scored on a keeper from a yard out at right end.
Freshman Roc Thomas scored his first college touchdown on his first carry after a breakdown on special teams for the visitors. Auburn took over at the San Jose State three after the punter fumbled the snap and Thomas ended the scoring with 10:47 to play. The freshman running back carried the ball nine times for 51 yards, all in the fourth quarter when the Tigers played backups on offense and defense.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Auburn’s 104 points in the first two games are the highest total since scoring 122 vs .Ole Miss and Chattanooga to open the 1995 season.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Linebacker Cassanova McKinzy led the Tigers in tackles with six solos and four assists. Ford was next with six solos an two assists.
Worth Noting, Part 3: Corey Grant continues to be productive. He averaged 8.9 yards on 10 carries.
Up Next: The Tigers travel to Manhattan a week from Thursday to play Kansas State.