In the 2018 Jordan-Hare finale, the Auburn Tigers made sure to send the fans home happy. The Auburn Tigers took care of business in a 53-0 rout over the Liberty Flames on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers were led by the rushing attack on offense, and an opportunistic defense to improve to 7-4 on the season.
It has been well documented the struggles the offense has had with the rushing attack this season. Auburn has struggled in this area due to inconsistency with the offensive line, and the health of JaTarvious Whitlow being up and down throughout the season. Whitlow was limited in this game, but it open up more carries for Kam Martin. Martin did start this season as the top back, but gave way to Whitlow early in the season. Martin on Saturday did rush for 116 yards on 17 carries. 112 of those yards came in the first half off of 15 carries. Whitlow chipped in with 48 yards, and the team overall had 340 yards on 61 carries. Shaun Shivers added in a touchdown with his 45 yards. The other two rushing scores came from quarterbacks Jarrett Stidham and Malik Miller.
Stidham had a steady performance through the air going 12 for 18 with two touchdowns with zero interceptions. This was most likely his final game at Jordan-Hare Stadium, as it is expected Stidham will declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. Freshmen Seth Williams became the first Auburn receiver to go over 100 yards and caught one touchdown. The scoring play occurred on the first possession of the second half when Stidham hit Williams for 45 yards to put Auburn up 39-0. Sal Cannella caught his third touchdown of the season late in the first half off a 22 yard reception that put the Tigers up 32-0.
The offense did have some issues in the first half and throughout the game. Despite scoring 32 points in the first half, only two of the touchdowns came from the offense. It was another struggle on third down as well. Auburn went 2-12 for the game, and only 1-10 in the first half.
The Tigers did hold the Flames without a score, but had some issues on the opening drive against Liberty. The Flames came out with a 12-play 42 yard drive to open the game, but stalled out after going for a fourth down and not being able to convert. A key to that drive was Liberty being able to hit on the slant pass, but Auburn seemed to adjust and the longest drive after that was only five plays. Auburn held Liberty to 134 yards total on the game, and only 92 after the opening possession.
The defense was able to create some opportunities for the offense, and do some scoring themselves. Darrell Williams made his presence known early with an interception off of Stephen Calvert for a touchdown that put the Tigers up 10-0. Auburn forced a total of four turnovers that included two fumbles, and an interception by Smoke Monday late in the game. Deshaun Davis led the way with seven tackles, and the team was able to get to the quarterback three times.
There were a lot of high expectations for Anders Carlson coming into this season. That is expecting when you are the younger brother of one the all-time greats in Daniel Carlson. Carlson struggled from long distance most of the season, but on Saturday he had his best day. He went 3 for 3 including one for 53 yards. He came into the game going 3 for 11 from long distance on the season.
Anders Carlson was not the only element of the special teams to add points. With Auburn up 10-0 in the first quarter, Jordyn Peters blocked an Aidan Alves punt that resulted in a safety to put Auburn up 12-0.
The Tigers will now head to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide, who are having a record breaking season on offense. Some experts may even say this is the greatest Alabama team of all-time. It will take a strong effort from Auburn to pull off the upset, and the players and coaches will have a lot of work to do to make it happen.
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