BERKELEY, Calif. (WHNT) — After a long road trip to California, the Auburn Tigers struggled on offense for most of the night but were able to score late when the team needed it the most and picked up a 14-10 win over the Golden Bears.
Auburn’s offense was stagnant from the start. The Tigers turned the ball over on the first possession of the game and only mustered 99 yards of offense and four first downs in the first half.
In total, Auburn’s offense only gained 230 total yards and turned the ball over four times.
However, the Tigers defense was stout and kept the team in the game even as the offense continued to struggle.
And when the game was coming down to the wire, in the fourth quarter, the struggling offense found a way to get into the end zone.
Payton Thorne connected with Rivaldo Fairweather on a fade route in the back of the end zone to put the Tigers up 14-10 with 6:31 remaining in the game.
The scoring play wasn’t what Hugh Freeze was originally going to call but before breaking the huddle out of a timeout, Freeze decided he wanted to give the 6-foot-4-inch tight end a chance to make a play.
“We were actually leaving the huddle and were going to go 12 personnel and going to block it up,” said Freeze. “I just said nah I want to go 13 and give Rivaldo a chance here.”
Following the score the Tigers forced Cal to punt and had a chance to kill the clock but a fumble from Jarquez Hunter set up Cal with a chance to take the lead late.
But as they had all night the Tigers’ defense came up big as DJ James reeled in an interception with 1:44 remaining allowing Auburn to escape with the win.
Following the game, Hugh Freeze acknowledged the sloppy offensive play and praised his defense for keeping the team in the game.
“I’m so proud of our kids and staff. I don’t think we could’ve played any uglier or sloppier on offense and really proud of our defense,” said Freeze. “The plan that Ron [Roberts] and his staff had and the effort that they gave and just continuing with their backs against the wall it seemed like time and time again continue to find a way to get us out of trouble, give us a chance to win the game. All the credit goes to that side of the ball tonight.”
Auburn’s defense held Cal to 273 yards of total offense much of which was in high pressure situations as the Golden Bears started with the ball in Tigers territory four times Saturday night.
The star of the night for the Tigers defense was Eugene Asante.
Asante, a junior linebacker, led the Tigers in tackles with 12 including a tackle for loss and sack.
“What a night he had,” said Freeze. “I don’t know how many tackles he had but he was in on a lot and he played really, really hard.”
With the win, Auburn advances to 2-0 and will return home to face in-state foe Samford on September 16. The Tigers are looking to advance to 3-0 for the first time since 2019 when the program started out 5-0.