Auburn makes statement win over UMass in season opener

WAFF 48's Cam Derr reporting
Published: Sep. 3, 2023 at 3:08 PM CDT
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AUBURN, Ala. (WAFF) - Saturday began a new era for the Auburn football team with its season opener and a new coach.

The Tigers officially opened the book on the Hugh Freeze era, with a showstopping performance on both sides of the football.

Jordan-Hare Stadium was rocking and the Tigers took advantage, showing out in front of over 88,000 fans.

The Tigers took on University of Massachusetts (UMass) who came into the game with one win already under their belts. However, that didn’t stop the Tigers from getting on the prowl early on in the game.

For the Tigers’ first drive, quarterback Payton Thorne sent a pass to running back Damari Alston who walked in the endzone for Auburn’s first rushing touchdown of the 2023-24 season. Thorne threw for a total of 141 yards in his debut from Michigan State.

The initial excitement quickly faded after UMass responded with a score on a 1-yard run to the endzone.

But, the momentum shifted again, in favor of the Tigers.

The second quarter was the quarterback Robby Ashford show. The sophomore from Hoover sealed a solid three rushing touchdowns.

Ashford was the first Auburn quarterback to score three touchdowns in a game since Nick Marshall did it against South Carolina in 2014 not to mention in the first half, to boot.

Auburn snagged the win over UMass handily, 59-14.

Coach Freeze after the game was pumped for his team and emphasized the need to celebrate every victory, no matter how big or small.

“I’ve made up my mind, for the rest of my career, I’m going to enjoy, a least for a few hours, the fact that our team, our staff found a way to win a football game in college and they’re not easy,” said Freeze during the post-game conference. “I don’t care who you play, they’re just not easy to win football games, so I want to enjoy that, and I want our kids to and I want them to do that in life, in families, celebrate each other when those things happen and so we’ll do that.”

Even one of the Tigers’ most lively players, linebacker Eugene Asante, had some words to share on pumping up the team.

“I’m a big energy guy so having the fans out there going crazy, the pump up music everything, the walk through everything, those types of things empower me,” said Asante. “I feed off of it so much and it helps me play even harder because I’m fighting for something bigger than myself.”

Coach Freeze and the Tigers squad reeled in the environment at Jordan-Hare that they say helped provide the needed confidence to begin the season.

The Tigers will head on the road to the University of California to take on the Golden Bears in Berkeley, Cal. for non-conference action on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 9:30 CT.

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