Auburn, Unable to Overcome Early Adversity, Falls to Oklahoma in Sugar Bowl
Head Coach Gus Malzahn with Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee (Photo: Auburn Athletics)
Auburn scored a touchdown to begin the game, and they scored a touchdown to end the game. However, it was Oklahoma who wrote the story in between the covers, as they defeated the Tigers 35-19 in the 2016 Allstate Sugar Bowl. In Auburn’s first drive, they were faced with a fourth down scenario. Malzahn decided to go for the first down, which was successful. Not only was it successful, but it gave Auburn their first score of the game. H-back Chandler Cox received the ball, and rushed for the Auburn touchdown, giving them a 7-0 lead following Daniel Carlson’s extra point with 9:04 remaining in the quarter. The drive took 5:56 off the clock, which was Auburn’s second longest drive that resulted in a touchdown on the season. One story line surrounding Auburn’s opponent, Oklahoma, is the saga surrounding running back Joe Mixon. Mixon was the subject of a sexual assault case, which resulted in a year-long suspension in 2014. On December 16 of this year, the video of the incident surfaced and has caused copious amounts of backlash since. On Oklahoma’s first drive, it was running back Samaje Perine that got the start, not Mixon. The official reasoning behind that has not been made official. Mixon got his first carry on Oklahoma’s third drive, where he carried the ball 5 times for 9 yards and had a 32-yard reception. Auburn ended the first quarter up 7-0 over the Sooners. The game began to go downhill for Auburn as the second quarter commenced. Oklahoma ended their drive that carried over from the first quarter with a touchdown pass from quarterback Baker Mayfield to tight end Mark Andrews to tie the game at seven. Quarterback Sean White had battled injury over the later portion of the season. It was reassuring to Auburn fans when Head Coach Gus Malzahn announced that White was participating in bowl practice, and would get the start against Oklahoma. However, the sophomore quarterback’s return was shortened in the second quarter. After a 12-play drive that resulted in a 49-yard field goal by Carlson, White was seen going into the locker room with an apparent injury. According to reports, it was White’s arm that was giving him issues. Due to that, White did not return to the game. Quarterback John Franklin III entered the game at quarterback for the injured White. Franklin took over after an Oklahoma drive that ended with a Mixon touchdown run, and completed 2 of his 4 passing attempts for 21 yards, and also had 9 yards on the ground. Daniel Carlson added to Auburn’s point total with his second field goal of the night, this time from 39 yards away with 00:41 remaining in the first half and would head to the locker room trailing the Sooners, 14-13. Auburn struggled in the third quarter, as they failed to put points on the board and punted three times. With Auburn’s offense taking a step back, Oklahoma took advantage. Mayfield tossed his second touchdown pass of the night, this time to fellow Heisman Trophy candidate Dede Westbrook to extend their lead to 21-13. The Sooners would score once more in the quarter, on a run by Mixon that needed video review to confirm. Auburn ended the third quarter in a deep hole, down 28-13. Oklahoma put the dagger into Auburn’s comeback chances with 12:40 to go in the contest when Perine scored his first touchdown of the game from two-yards out. Oklahoma used an 8 play drive to extend their lead over Auburn, 35-13. Auburn elected to go with a different quarterback in the fourth quarter in Jeremy Johnson. A few things went well for Johnson, as he completed a 56-yard pass to receiver Darius Slayton for the Tigers’ longest play of the game, and helped Auburn convert a fourth down play. However, a promising touchdown drive was abruptly ended when Oklahoma’s Jordan Thomas intercepted a Johnson pass in the end zone with 8:51 to go in the game. The game did end on a high note, though. As the clock expired, running back Kerryon Johnson lined up in the “wildcat” position and threw a jump pass to tight end Jalen Harris for a touchdown to cap the scoring. Auburn ends the season with an 8-5 record. The 2017 season will begin on September 2nd against Georgia Southern inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.