Atlanta, GA — Words can’t begin to capture the breathtaking spectacle that is Mercedes-Benz Statdium, the home of the Alanta Falcons and host of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. The ambiance and setting showed why this was a perfect venue for such a huge college football game on opening weekend.
In this top 10 match-up between two heavyweights, the No. 9 Auburn Tigers defeated the No. 6 Washington Huskies 21-16. The Tigers’ defense made key plays down the stretch to put away a Washington Huskies team, that showed signs of being a legitatmate playoff contender, but made far too many mistakes.
Late in the fourth quarter, Auburn made a statement play that defined the flow of the game. Driving into the red zone, the Huskies gave up a crucial sack to Kat Bryant on third down. The subsequent play ended with an incomplete pass capping off a game with intense — and styfilying — defense.
Washington fought back after trailing the second half, and even took the lead with some fantastic play from their receiving core. While the Huskies offense was able to strike back, yet turnovers and costly penalties kept them from taking full control of the game.
On the other side, the Tigers showed today that their defense will be one of the best in the nation this year. With today’s display, Auburn sent a strong message to the playoff committee with their strong showing.
If they can sustain this type of defensive dominance throughout the rest of this season, they will be in the driver’s seat to earn a playoff spot.
“A couple things really stand out to me,” Auburn’s head coach Gus Malzhan stated on the team’s effort. “That last drive offensively I think that we scored, we had a big third down and 10 where Jarrett hit Chandler Cox. We were stalled, I think, two series before that. Our defense, I think, they got inside the 10 or 15 I think three times, held them to three points. I thought that was huge.”
Malzhan wasn’t done praising his team as he also discussed another aspect of the contest that stood out to him.
“Probably zero turnovers, as many young guys as touched the ball, real impressed with that, and the fact that our defense forced two turnovers.”
Despite the loss, all is not lost for the Huskies. They can still win the Pac-12 and with some help from the Football Gods, make it into the Playoff.
“I don’t really know, and I really don’t care,” Washington coach Chris Peterson stated on what this game means for his team. “I just really don’t. I mean, I don’t know how to say it any different. I mean, it was game 1 against a good opponent, coming across the country, hostile territory, kids battled hard, we’ll just see where our team goes from here. It’s a long season.
“Had we won, I’d feel exactly the same, exactly the same. Kids stepped up, played a top team in the country, proud of them, and it’s a long season from here on out.”
Both teams return to the field Sept. 8. Auburn will play host to Alabama State while Washington will host North Dakota.