Darius Slayton

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Prince Tega Wanogho is second Auburn player to put NFL on hold, return to Tigers for another season

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One of the best names in college football will back for one more college football season.

Over the weekend, Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown announced via Instagram that he would be returning to The Plains for another season.  A day later, and on the same social media site, a teammate on the other side of the line, Prince Tega Wanogho, confirmed that he too will be eschewing an early leap into the April draft and returning to the Tigers for his senior season.

After starting seven games as a redshirt sophomore in 2017, Wanogho started all 13 games at left tackle this past season.

While two key components will return next season, the Tigers did lose three big pieces to early entry into the draft over the last month: starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham (HERE), receiving yards leader Darius Slayton (HERE) and starting defensive back Jamel Dean (HERE).

Auburn dominates first B1G-SEC bowl matchup in historic rout of Purdue

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The good news for the Big Ten?  They still have three more matchups with the SEC this postseason, and they couldn’t possibly go worse than this one. Right?

It was a record-setting first two quarters of the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl for Auburn (8-5) as they took a 56-7 lead on overmatched and overwhelmed Purdue (6-7) into the halftime locker room.  After scoring on all seven of its first-half offensive possessions (if you take away a kneel down to end the second quarter), the Tigers scored on its first possession of the second half as well before throwing it in cruise control and easing its way to a 63-14 win over the Boilermakers.

To put a finer point on the dominance, the Tigers didn’t punt the ball until there were just over three minutes left in the third quarter.  That punt came after Gus Malzahn, in the head coach’s first game since reassuming the play-calling duties, commenced to removing a handful of starters on both sides of the ball.

With the 63 points, Auburn broke the SEC bowl scoring record previously held by rival Alabama in its 61-6 win over Syracuse in the 1953 Orange Bowl.  The Tigers had already broken the Music City Bowl record for points in a game, previously the 49 by West Virginia in the 2000 game, with its 56 first-half points that also broke the FBS postseason record for two quarters of play.

Auburn had the chance to tie the record for points in a bowl game, but opted to kneel twice inside the five-yard line with less than a minute remaining in the game.  That means West Virginia’s record of 70 put up in the 2012 Orange Bowl rout of Clemson remains the postseason points standard.

In the last game of Jarrett Stidham‘s collegiate career — he announced earlier this month that he is leaving The Plains early for the NFL — the quarterback put on quite the show in just two-and-a-half quarters worth of work, throwing for 373 yards and five touchdowns in the rout.  He’s just the third player in AU history with five touchdown passes in a single game, joining Chris Todd in 2009 and Daniel Cobb in 2001, but the first to do so in a bowl.

Not surprisingly, Stidham was named as the Music City Bowl Player of the Game.

Darius Slayton caught three of Stidham’s touchdown passes for 160 yards, all of which came in the first half.  The yardage broke the old school record of 159 by Herbert Casey in the 1990 Peach Bowl.

With two rushing and one receiving (all in the first half), JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow is the first Tiger football player to score three touchdowns in a bowl game.

In a losing effort, All-American true freshman Rondale Moore, who came into the game leading the FBS in receptions with 103, added 11 more catches for 94 yards.

The Big Ten and SEC will square off three more times over the next four days: the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Florida-Michigan, Dec. 29), the Outback Bowl (Mississippi State-Iowa, New Year’s Day) and the VRBO Citrus Bowl (Kentucky-Penn State, New Year’s Day).

With Auburn’s win, the SEC is now an even 1-1 in the 2018-19 bowl season with nine more games remaining.  The Big Ten suffered its first defeat of the postseason and is 2-1 with six games left on its bowl schedule.

Auburn scores on first seven possessions, adds pick-six in blowing doors off Purdue at halftime of Music City Bowl

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At least for the first two quarters, Tyler Trent‘s special kind of inspirational magic hasn’t traveled well from West Lafayette to Nashville.  At all.

Thanks to a startling, historic offensive outburst and a stifling defensive effort throughout, Auburn has taken a dominating 56-7 lead on Purdue into halftime of the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Saturday afternoon.  This marked the first time in more than two years that head coach Gus Malzahn, who is either on the hot seat or he’s not, called the offensive plays during a game, and the impact was immediate as the Tigers scored touchdowns on their first seven possessions en route to 398 yards of first-half offense.

 JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow set the tone early on as, on Auburn’s first offensive possession, the running back took a wheel route from Jarrett Stidham on third-and-one and turned it into a 66-yard touchdown just a little over a minute into the postseason contest.  That was the first of three Whitlow touchdowns in the first half, the second coming on a two-yard run in the middle of the first quarter to push the Tigers’ lead to 14-0 and a third two minutes later, following a David Blough interception, from a yard out to make it a 21-0 game.

After a Rondale Moore touchdown pulled the Boilermakers to within 14 at 21-7, Stidham hit Darius Slayton on a 74-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing possession to push the lead back out to 21 with just under three minutes left in the first quarter.  Stidham would finish the half with 335 yards and four touchdown tosses on 13-of-18 passing, while Slayton added another touchdown catch early in the second quarter, this one from 52 yards out on a second-and-18 screen pass, that stretched Auburn’s advantage to 35-7.  Slayton then added a third touchdown catch with two minutes left in the half.

Stidham’s first-half quarterback rating, incidentally, was an astronomical 301.8.

A second Blough interception was returned 20 yards for a touchdown by Big Kat Bryant three minutes into the second quarter to push the Boilermakers further into the abyss at 42-7.  Blough finished the half 18-of-28 passing for 142 yards and the two picks for a rating of 92.6.  The Boilermakers’ offense as a whole managed just 180 yards and were 3-9 on third downs (and 1-3 on fourth downs).

Just once this season did Auburn score more points in an entire game than they did in the first half today — 63-9 over FCS Alabama State in early September.  AU’s high-water mark against an SEC team in 2018 came in a 34-3 win over Arkansas Sept. 22 as they came into the game today 102nd nationally averaging 28.3 points per game.

The 56 points also breaks the Music City Bowl record for points set by West Virginia against Ole Miss in a 49-38 win in the 2000 game.  It also breaks the old FBS record of 49 points in a half in any bowl game (West Virginia vs. Clemson, 2012 Orange Bowl).

No. 1 Alabama completes perfect regular season with Iron Bowl romp

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While the story of this Alabama season will be written by what happens next month, the 2018 Crimson Tide has already accomplished something very few teams do — something even more rare than a national championship in Tuscaloosa. The No. 1 Tide handled Auburn 52-21 on Saturday evening, completing just the fourth perfect regular season of the highly successful Nick Saban era of Alabama football.

Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC) will head to Atlanta to face No. 5 Georgia in what is essentially a College Football Playoff quarterfinal game. Saban’s first two unbeaten teams, in 2008 and ’09, headed to Atlanta with similar stakes. The 2008 team lost to No. 2 Florida, who went on to win that season’s national title; the ’09 team upended the No. 1 Gators en route to the first of five (and counting) national titles under Saban. This time, of course, it’ll be Georgia looking for vengeance after losing the 2017 CFP National Championship on the same field they’ll play on next Saturday.

But to play a game with such stakes, Alabama first had to win this one.

Alabama led this one throughout, though it did get dicey just before halftime. Leading 17-7, Alabama had just suffered its first three-and-out when a group of Tigers broke through to block Mike Bernier‘s punt, which Auburn’s Jamien Sherwood recovered at the Alabama 23-yard line. Two plays later, Ryan Davis completed a throwback pass to wide-open running back Malik Miller, pulling the visitors within 17-14 at the break.

Facing their first close game of the season, Alabama accepted the ball to open the second half and immediately erased any drama. Tua Tagovailoa hit Jerry Jeudy for a 46-yard touchdown pass to put the Tide up 10, then essentially ended the game with a 33-yard strike to Josh Jacobs, stretching the Alabama lead to 31-14 just over five minutes into the second half.

Auburn pulled back within 10 when Darius Slayton scored a 52-yard snatch-and-dash touchdown, but Alabama answered with a 3-play, 75-yard touchdown drive culminating in a 40-yard Devonta Smith touchdown catch.

Tagovailoa ended his day at the 14:27 mark of the fourth quarter, firing a 22-yard scoring strike to Henry Ruggs III that saw the Heisman front-runner polish his resume by going 25-of-32 for 324 yards and five touchdowns with another 26 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Jalen Hurts entered the game on Alabama’s next drive and immediately fired a 53-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle.

Jarrett Stidham played nearly the entire game and battled throughout, hitting 13-of-30 passes for 127 yards with a touchdown and an interception while taking numerous shots.

The win moved Alabama to 8-4 in the Iron Bowl in the Saban era and dropped Auburn, a preseason top-10 team, to 7-5 overall and 3-5 in SEC play.

Late field goal completes rally as No. 12 LSU tops No. 7 Auburn

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Say what you want about Ed Orgeron but the man knows how to pull the upset off against Auburn.

No. 12 LSU made several huge plays late in a big defensive battle against the No. 7 team in the country on the Plains and used a Cole Tracy field goal as the clock hit zero to escape against their fellow Tigers with a 22-21 victory and briefly surge into the lead of the SEC West in the process.

Things started out about as well as could be for the visitors as Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham had his first pass of the game picked off in a rather uneven performance overall from one of the league’s Heisman favorites. The signal-caller did bounce back from that throw with a much better second quarter but finished the day with only 198 yards, a touchdown and an additional interception. While the outing was far from great, a lot of it had to do with his offensive line struggling to deal with the pressure from LSU, who recorded six tackles for loss, a sack and forced two turnovers.

If there was a silver-lining in the loss for the fans at Jordan-Hare though, it might be the emergence of several youngsters in a big moment against an SEC West rival. Tailback JaTarvious Whitlow led the team with 104 yards and a touchdown while fellow freshman Shaun Shivers also found the end zone. Junior Darius Slayton once again led the way at wideout (33 yards, 1 TD) but three other freshman recorded at least 30 yards in the game.

Defensively, linebacker Deshaun Davis was all over the place as usual and finished the game with 10 tackles, a sack, a pressure and a pass breakup. It helped that lineman Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson were also disruptive on just about every snap against an overmatched offensive line and came up big with several third down stops.

They couldn’t come up with a final one however.

LSU’s offense was hit-or-miss during the game but they did find magic when it was needed most on their final two drives. Quarterback Joe Burrow (249 yards, 1 TD) had a hand in his face just about every snap but gutted his way through to keep the team in it with a few late game heroics. You can start with an improbable throw over a few out-stretched arms to Derrick Dillon, who zipped across the middle and went 71 yards to the house to eject plenty of life into the visiting sideline and give the Tigers an opening.

The defense responded right away by forcing a three-and-out and then Burrow and his offense promptly mounted a 14 play, 52 yard drive that took up the final 5:38 of the game. Tailback Nick Brossette was responsible for several tough runs on his way to a 69-yard day but LSU couldn’t have kept things alive if it were not for a few defensive penalties along the way.

Eventually it was Tracy’s turn to play the hero, calmly booting a 42-yarder through the uprights to steal the win as white jerseys poured onto the field in celebration.

The result surely shakes up the SEC West and should have an effect on the polls and national title race come close of business on Saturday. While Auburn is by no means out of things with that marquee win over Washington and plenty of big game ahead, the road to another division title just got a little harder as it will likely take a prefect run the rest of the way to return them to Atlanta.

LSU, meanwhile, should move into the top 10 as they celebrate on their way back to Baton Rouge. The immediate schedule remains very manageable and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Tigers go into their key three game stretch (when Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama all come to Death Valley) undefeated and looking a lot tougher than first expected. The defense remains as good as ever under Orgeron but it’s hard not to think that Orgeron’s pursuit of Burrow in the offseason has already paid off after the second year in a row that LSU has gotten the better of their fellow Tigers on the field.