By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
For 60 minutes last Saturday, Ohio Valley Conference member Jacksonville State played SEC member Auburn to a virtual draw. Ranked No. 6 in the latest AP Top 25, the Tigers certainly did not perform like a 40-point favorite over its lower division foe.
JSU took the lead with over five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but Auburn forced overtime with 39 seconds to play when quarterback Jeremy Johnson hit receiver Melvin Ray in the back corner of the end zone following an 18-yard Gamecock punt.
JSU had gotten the ball back from Auburn via a fumble with 3:20 to go but failed to pick up a first down. JSU had one timeout after Auburn tied the game in regulation, but the Gamecocks ran the rest of the time off the clock to go to overtime.
Auburn won the game, 27-20, on a three-yard touchdown run by Peyton Barber in the first overtime period.
Jacksonville State then got inside the Auburn 10 via a pass interference penalty, but a huge sack by Cassanova McKinzy on JSU quarterback Eli Jenkins made a fourth down conversion for a touchdown almost impossible. The Gamecocks deep pass to the end zone was complete but receiver Josh Barge, was ruled out of bounds.
“I don’t want to hear anything about a moral victory,” said JSU head coach John Grass after the game.
In his second game as the Auburn starter, Johnson threw two interceptions after throwing three picks against Louisville.
The first half was mainly a defensive struggle, although JSU did manage to gain 225 yards in total offense while holding the Tigers to 152.
Daniel Carlson gave Auburn a 3-0 lead with a 27-yard field goal and Connor Rouleau tied the game at 3-3 with 13:29 to go in the half with a 32-yard field goal.
Carlson added a 49-yard field goal less than four minutes later to give Auburn a 6-3 lead. The Gamecocks then put together a 10-play, 75-yard drive to take their first lead with 5:31 to go in the half, with Barge hauling in an 11-yard pass from Eli Jenkins for the score. Rouleau booted the PAT and JSU led 10-6 at halftime.
Although the Gamecocks had several other scoring opportunities, any of which could have been possible game winners, Auburn was able to turn JSU back.
During his postgame interview, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn noted that his team has a number of areas to work on before it faces LSU this week. The Tigers slipped to No. 18 in the current AP poll.