Nearly anything that could go wrong did go wrong for Auburn during a 41-12 beatdown on Saturday against Penn State at Jordan-Hare. Tiger fans hoping to use the “Orange-Out” to return the favor of last season’s 28-20 defeat at Beaver Stadium got trampled under Nittany Lion running back Nicholas Singleton’s quick feet.
Singleton ran for a 54-yard score with a little over 12 minutes left in the game. Singelton’s second touchdown put the Nittany Lions ahead 38-12, which put the game out of reach. Jarquez Hunter caught a 22-yard touchdown from backup quarterback Robby Ashford on the previous drive. Singleton finished with 124 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns.
Ashford’s connection with Hunter gave the Tigers a bit of optimism with a 31-12 deficit. Singleton destroyed the ambition by sending the orange-clad supporters home early. Auburn fans showed up, but besides Hunter’s touchdown, the offense was mostly absent.
“I thought our crowd was fantastic. The energy, what they brought tonight, and the environment. It was exactly what we thought it would be,” Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin said after the game. “We’re disappointed in the performance, and we’re disappointed in the loss, obviously. You can look at the stats, it’s a pretty matter of fact. Football really comes down to the execution piece.”
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Auburn had four turnovers in the loss. Shedrick Jackson had a fumble. Finley and Ashford each threw interceptions for the second consecutive week. The fourth turnover came in a particularly precarious situation for Auburn.
Finley dropped back for a pass and got sacked. He fumbled on the play. Auburn led the Nittany Lions to a field goal with 9:27 left in the third quarter. Auburn trailed 24-6, and Finley got walloped on the play. He took several hits on a day when Auburn’s quarterbacks got sacked several times and remained under constant pressure from Penn State’s front seven.
Finley was seen grabbing his shoulder several times during the game, including after throwing an interception on the last play of the second quarter. He also threw one in a similar situation against San Jose State in a win. Finley bounced back from a 1-5 start with an interception to throw for 158 yards in the comeback win against the Spartans.
Auburn wouldn’t make such a comeback after Finley’s fumble as Penn State outscored the Tigers 17-0 in the third quarter and 10-6 in the fourth. Finley wouldn’t return to the game after the fumble. Was he fast? Maybe, but Harsin said that’s not why Finley sat.
“He got banged up a little bit in the game, Harsin said. “I don’t think that impacted too much of the decision to go with Robby at that point. But TJ was trying to make plays out there as well, and Robby came in and did some good things for us.”
Finley threw for 152 yards on 11-19 passing with the interception. He was the quarterback when Auburn failed to score touchdowns in the first half. He was in when the Tigers went three-and-out on the Tigers’ first drive of the second half with the game within reach. Auburn trailed 14-6 at the half.
“We went three-and-out on that drive there, and that was one that hurt us, just from a momentum standpoint,” Harsin said. “But even at that point, the score is not out of hand. It comes back to us executing, but the decision for that was not necessarily off of, you know, him not being able to go. TJ’s a tough guy. He showed toughness tonight, too, and we felt like Robby had some plays in there and that he could get some things going, and he did.”
Ashford finished the game 10-19 for 144 yards with the touchdown to Hunter.
“He moved the ball down the field, we scored, had a nice throw to Jarquez,” Harsin said. “That made a great play there. That’s probably too little, obviously, at that point. Probably a little too late there, but at the same time, those guys are executing, we just had to do more of that.”
Auburn has a chance to do more scoring next week against Missouri for an 11am kick at Jordan-Hare.
“I’ve got to do a better job — we all do, as coaches, to get these guys prepared to go out there and play against really good football teams,” Harsin said. They continue to keep getting better.”