#5 Auburn took on San José State at Jordan-Hare on Saturday afternoon, and this one got off to a wild start.
The Tigers started out with the ball, and in the blink of an eye QB Nick Marshall had taken off through the defense on what looked like a sure-fire touchdown run. As Marshall was approaching the goal line, a tackler popped the ball out, and in the ensuing scramble it dribbled out of the back of the end zone for a touchback.
Auburn's defense took over, and it looked as though they'd immediately reversed their fortunes when they forced a fumble of their own. A penalty canceled out the fumble recovery, though, and they had to force a punt several plays later to get the ball back in earnest.
Nick Marshall and RB Cameron Artis-Payne owned the next drive, and a well-designed play at the goal line put the Tigers up 7-0 after Ricardo Louis got open and hauled in a pass from Marshall.
Auburn's shaky start continued, though - on the very next play from scrimmage, a blown coverage in the secondary helped the Spartans find an immediate response. San José State QB Blake Jurich found Tyler Ervin breaking into space, and just like that things were all tied up at seven.
Auburn HC Gus Malzahn was clearly unimpressed. Whatever he said on the sideline after the play clearly lit a fire under his players, as we'd see over the next fifteen minutes of football.
Artis-Payne, Marshall and RB Corey Grant went on six consecutive running plays for positive yardage, with the last one punching the ball in to put the Tigers up 14-7. A defensive stand brought the first quarter to a close, and while the Tigers looked like the better team after things settled down, there was still work to be done.
The second quarter saw the Tigers turn a close game into a total rout. The first drive of the quarter ended with another Artis-Payne TD run, and the ensuing SJSU three-and-out led to a punt coming from deep in Spartans territory.
The Spartans gave Quan Bray just a bit of room on the return...and that was all he needed. In a span of minutes, the Tigers had blown the game open, and SJSU looked shell-shocked.
Another Artis-Payne TD (his third of the half) was answered by a 27-yard field goal for the Spartans, but a second SJSU interception set the Tigers up at midfield with about a minute remaining in the half. After another Auburn field goal, the half ended with the Tigers leading 38-10.
While Nick Marshall looked fluid on offense and Montravius Adams had his way with the SJSU offensive line, it has to be Cameron Artis-Payne. The three first-half touchdowns and big plays gave the Tigers a massive advantage on the ground, and they're comfortably ahead thanks to his hard work.