Auburn takes care of business against Samford, wins 45-13

Auburn wide receiver Omari Kelly, right, catches a pass over Samford cornerback Kamron Smith...
Auburn wide receiver Omari Kelly, right, catches a pass over Samford cornerback Kamron Smith (16) for a first down during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)(Butch Dill | AP)
Published: Sep. 16, 2023 at 9:17 PM CDT
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AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - The Auburn Tigers welcomed in the Samford Bulldogs for their homecoming game on Saturday night. After a slow start plagued by turnovers, the Tigers took over the game and cruised to a 45-13 victory.

The Auburn defense did their job on the game’s opening drive, forcing Samford to punt the ball from midfield. On the ensuing drive, Auburn marched downfield, and it looked like they would get an easy score. However, Payton Thorne went to the air on third and goal, and Jayden Mosley intercepted his pass in the endzone.

Neither team was able to produce very much offense, and the scoreboard still showed double zeros when the first quarter came to an end.

It wasn’t until the second quarter was nearing the midway point that we saw either team reach the promised land, and it was the Tigers that prevailed. Thorne connected with Omari Kelly for a 40-yard gain and followed that up with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Shane Hooks, making it 7-0.

The Auburn defense made short work of Samford on the next drive, and J.D. Rhym intercepted a Michael Hiers pass on second down. Unfortunately for the Tigers, when the Auburn offense took the field, they went on to suffer the same fate when another Thorne pass to the endzone was picked off by Courtland Marsh, giving it right back to Samford. It wasn’t over yet, though. Auburn’s defense was not about to be outplayed by Samford, and Jaylin Simpson intercepted the ball from Hiers, giving the Tiger offense the ball on the Samford 22.

This time, the Tiger offense would not be denied, and Payton Thorne was able to find the endzone, but instead of with his arm, it came in the form of a five-yard run. Auburn went on to add a field goal in the final minutes of the half and went into the locker room at halftime up 17-0.

On the second half’s opening possession, Auburn used a balance of the run and pass game to move 76 yards downfield and add to the lead. Thorne completed a big 20-yard pass to Jay Fair, and the run game took it from there. A few plays later, Robbie Ashford came into the game and took the ball into the endzone from the one-yard line to finish things off.

Samford answered back on the next drive and scored a touchdown of their own, fueled by Heirs and wide receiver Chandler Smith. The two connected for a 39-yard reception and followed that up a few plays later with a 36-yard touchdown, putting the Bulldogs on the scoreboard for the first time of the night.

On the ensuing drive, Thorne showed us that it’s not just Ashford that has wheels and took off for a 39-yard touchdown run of his own, pushing that Auburn lead back out to 24.

Later, the Auburn punt return team made a critical mistake late in the third quarter when Will Thorley turned the ball over to the Bulldogs on the Auburn nine-yard line. Samford capitalized on the turnover and turned it into points when Hiers ran three yards into the endzone a few plays later.

In the fourth quarter, Auburn continued to apply the pressure on both offense and defense, and it paid off in the form of another Payton Thorne rushing touchdown. The Tigers took over on the Samford 33 after a punt, and after a few unsuccessful runs by Jeremiah Cobb, Thorne kept the ball and took it 16 yards for a first down. Thorne followed that up a few plays later with an 18-yard run into the endzone, giving the Tigers a 25-point lead.

On the next Auburn offensive possession, Ashford was under center and went to silence the critics of his passing game. He went three for four through the air, with all three completions being 13 yards or more. He closed out the drive with a 32-yard strike to Micah Riley for a touchdown. With five and a half minutes remaining in the game, the Tigers had a commanding 32-point lead.

After a sluggish start plagued by turnovers, Auburn gathered their composure and took over the game in the second quarter en route to their third straight win before they head into a tough conference schedule that includes matchups against Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, and Alabama.

The Tigers will be back in action next weekend in College Station when they face Jimbo Fisher and the Texas A&M Aggies.

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