An ugly win is still a win. That will be what can be taken from Saturday night (or Sunday morning) as Auburn beats Cal 14-10. Both teams struggled mightily on offense with the Tigers having four turnovers and the Bears with three. Auburn struggled the most in the game with not getting in any kind of rhythm until late in the fourth quarter. The game-winning score came with 6:31 remaining when quarterback Payton Thorne threw a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rivaldo Fairweather.
Auburn was held to 230 total yards, and only 94 through the air. They did rush for 136 yards with Jarquez Hunter leading the way with 53 yards. Defensively, they held Cal to 273 yards and were led by Eugene Asante with 12 tackles and one sack. Auburn was helped with three missed Cal field goals. This was the Tigers’ first-ever win in California. Before Auburn’s win Saturday, they were 0-3 in California.
Auburn beats Cal 14-10
The game did not start on a positive note for the Auburn Tigers. They received the opening kickoff and faced an early third and four. Quarterback Payton Thorne scrambled on the play, and before he could go out of bounds, he lost control of the ball. It would land in the hands of Jackson Sirmon. Then it looked like Cal would score a touchdown, but the officials said he was out of bounds. It did not seem that way. The turnover put the Bears at the Auburn 35.
The Tigers’ defense was able to hold to just a field goal by Michael Luckhurst to put Cal up 3-0 with 9:42 in the first quarter. After an Auburn punt on the following possession, Luckhurst would miss a short field. Marcus Harris got a big sack on third down to force the attempt. Both teams would then trade punts. The quarter would end with Auburn picking up a first down when Thorne connected with Ja’Varrius Johnson for seven yards. That put the Tigers at their own 44 at the quarter break.
Turnover Filled Second
Auburn would bring in Robby Ashford when the sides got flipped, and it did not lead to ball movement. The possession ended with a punt by Oscar Chapman. Cal running back Isaiah Ifanse would be stripped of the ball on the next play by Donovan Kaufman to put the Tigers at the Cal 11. Two plays later Thorne would find Jay Fair over the middle on a crossing route, and he would take it in for a 13-yard touchdown. That put them up 7-3 with 11:50 in the second.
After another Cal punt, the Auburn offense had a promising drive going. That ended when Damari Alston fumbled after a run of 13 yards. The play gave the Bears the ball at their own 48. They switched to Sam Jackson V at quarterback, and he led them on a drive that resulted in seven points. Running back Jaydn Ott scored on a 13-yard touchdown to give the Bears a 10-7 lead with 4:47 left until halftime. Ott was at 61 yards rushing after that score. He had 178 on the ground last week against North Texas. Jackson presented the run element from the quarterback. That was not a threat with starter Ben Finley.
Auburn got the ball with 1:25 remaining at their own 24. A score at this point would give the Tigers a lot of momentum going into halftime. Then another turnover happened. On first down, Thorne threw a bad pass that was intercepted by Cal’s Nohl Williams. He was attempting to hit Shane Hooks but overthrew him. Luckily for Auburn, a holding on a Luckhurst field goal attempt wiped away three points, and Jackson threw an interception on a Hail Mary attempt to end the half. Jaylin Simpson got the pick on the play. The Bears held a 10-7 advantage at halftime.
Third Quarter Stalemate
The Bears opened the second half with the ball and moved down the field using up 6:35 off the clock. The 13-play drive ended on a fourth and four play that turned up short for Cal at the Auburn 37. The first second-half drive started off with the biggest play of the night. Jarquez Hunter broke off a run of 14 yards to the 50. Four plays later Auburn faced their own fourth down attempt needing two yards to move the chains.
After a timeout, they went with a quarterback run with Ashford that would come up short at the Cal 41. The home team would go on another drive that looked promising and held the ball for 10 plays and 4:06. Again, the Tigers were able to hold them scoreless, and Luckhurst missed another field goal. This time one of 42 yards. The quarter ended with neither team putting up any points.
Auburn Comeback to Beat Cal 14-10
Auburn opened the fourth having to punt on a failed third and 15, and the Bears moved down the field once again. Jackson connected on three passes of 10 yards or more to get them down to the Auburn 16. On third down, Jackson was sacked by Eugene Asante for an 11-yard loss to force another field goal attempt. It was yet another miss for Luckhurst, and Auburn got the ball back at the 27 with 11:08 left. Facing a third and 17 play it appeared another punt was in Auburn’s future.
On the previous play, Thorne was sacked by David Reese for a loss of 7. On third down, Thorne found tight end Rivaldo Fairweather for 28 yards to get them to their own 31. Two plays later Fair caught a pass for 12 yards to get them down to the Cal 33. Thorne to Fairweather was about to strike again. First, he threw a fade to the endzone that resulted in a pass interference call. After a timeout, Thorne went to him again for a five-yard touchdown to put Auburn up 14-10 with 6:31 remaining. They would then force a Cal punt, and it looked like the Tigers were heading to a victory.
With 5:24 remaining, Hunter broke off a run of 19 yards to give Auburn a new set of downs. On the next play after gaining two yards, Hunter fumbled the ball back to Cal. The Tigers did what they did all night and turned back the Cal offense. On a fourth and 13 from the Auburn 18, Jackson was picked off in the endzone by D.J. James. With under two minutes left, the Tigers would force the Bears to use all their timeouts to run out the clock. Auburn beats Cal 14-10 for an ugly win to improve to 2-0.