Auburn's Melvin Ray comes down with a clutch touchdown late in the fourth quarter
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — It wasn't pretty, but when it mattered the most, Auburn found a way to beat Jacksonville State 27-20 in overtime on Saturday, showing enough moxie and finding enough clutch performances to save the day.
"When our backs are against the wall, we are not going to give up. We are going to find a way to win. I'm telling you, that's big," said coach Gus Malzahn. "It doesn't make a difference who you're playing. I'd say most teams wouldn’t have won that game."
The game story is here
Peyton Barber's big game
Thin defense put to test
Auburn improved to 2-0, now with seven-point wins over Louisville and Jacksonville State, and with a game at LSU next Saturday.
Auburn survived this Saturday by scoring the game-tying touchdown with 39 seconds left in regulation on a pass from Jeremy Johnson to Melvin Ray, and scored the game-winner on a Peyton Barber 4-yard on the overtime's first possession. The Tigers stopped Jacksonville State after that.
"We won and we didn't play well. It's easy to see that," Malzahn said. "We didn't play up to our standard and we have to figure out a way to do that. I will say this, we are 2-0 so our team morale is fine. We just need to play better."
When it matter, Malzahn said, "our defense did a really good job, and I also felt like Peyton Barber really stepped up and took over the game in the fourth quarter when we needed somebody to, as well as the big catch by Melvin Ray.
"A lot of times over the course of a season, it's how you win. Last week we faced some adversity, and you find out how you react. Today, we faced major adversity at home. We had a lot of new guys on the field late in the game. We were really counting on them to help us win the game. As far as that experience in winning games late, that will help us later on."
Johnson hit 21-of-32 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions. Most importantly, he rallied Auburn with the game on the line.
"I think Jeremy did some good things," Malzahn said. "I need to help Jeremy, too. I need to help put him in some better situations, it all works together. At the end of the game, when we needed him, he made the plays for us.
"He's our quarterback and he’s going to be fine."
Malzahn pointed to Johnson's throw to Barber on a third-and-9 from the 13 that gained 10 yards that set up Barber's 4-yard TD run.
"It was unbelievable. Here’s what I am going to say, too, on Jeremy Johnson, that was his fourth read. He went through his primary and hit the check down out there and the guy made a play. They had a boundary blitz right and they disguised it pretty well and he went through his progressions. But, Peyton Barber willed himself that last time to get in the end zone and he’s getting better each game."
Auburn heads to SEC play with work to be done.
"We have to get better, I think everybody sees that, but that’s the name of the game and I told everybody during the first year that this team has a chance to improve each week and grow. We’ve got some growing up to do."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine