Auburn faced its first test of the season on Saturday and failed it.
The Tigers fell to Penn State 41-12 in Jordan-Hare Stadium for their first loss of the season.
While some will point to the quarterbacks and their turnovers, Auburn’s has much bigger issues on offense and defense.
Penn State’s pass rush was able to completely take over the game and ensure neither T.J. Finley nor Robby Ashford were ever comfortable. Tank Bigsby, Auburn’s best offensive player, had just six touches in the first half.
Meanwhile, the defense still has not forced a turnover, was unable to pressure Sean Clifford and came apart in the second half of the game.
Auburn’s defense attempted to set the tone early, Owen Pappoe delivered a massive hit to Clifford and the Tigers stopped them on 4th down to set up the offense at the Penn State 47.
The Tigers were able to get into the redzone but stalled and were forced to kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 8:20 left in the first quarter.
Clifford and the Nittany Lions were able to respond on their next drive. He picked apart Auburn’s secondary, completing all three of his passes for 50 yards, and ran it in from the seven yard-line to take the lead.
Auburn was able to move the ball on their next two drives but once again struggled when they crossed into Penn State territory.
On the first Finley was hit by a rusher, and his errant pass was picked off by a defender. On the next they marched right back into the redzone but were once again forced to come away with a field goal, making it a 7-6 Penn State lead.
That was as close as the game would get, Penn State responded with another touchdown drive to take a 14-6 lead with 1:46 left in the first half.
The Tigers looked to get back in the game after the break but went three-and-out and Penn State running back Nicholas Singleton put those hopes to bed. He ripped off a 53-yard run on their first play of the half and punched it into the endzone two plays later to give the Nittany Lions a 21-6 lead.
Looking to claw their way back into the game disaster struck on Auburn’s next two drives. On the next drive, Finley was pressured and stripped, giving the Nittany Lions the ball right back and setting them up for a field goal.
Ashford started the next drive and was able to lead the Tigers inside the Penn State 10-yard line before being sacked and throwing an interception to end the drive. The Nittany Lions once again took advantage of the turnover, marching down the field in eight plays to take a commanding 31-6 lead with 1:07 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers scored their first touchdowns of the game in the fourth quarter when Jarquez Hunter caught a pass from Ashford and hurdled a defender to complete the 22-yard catch and run. The score made it 31-12 and Singleton responded with a 54-yard touchdown run to stop any momentum.
Auburn’s defense was unable to stand up to the Penn State offense in the second half, allowing them to score on five of their six second-half drives.
Auburn will have to regroup ahead of their SEC opener against Missouri (2-1) next Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.