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Auburn leans on QB duo to blast UMass

Sep 2, 2023; Auburn, Alabama, USA;  Massachusetts Minutemen wide receiver Anthony Simpson (8) moves in to tackle Auburn Tigers cornerback Jaylin Simpson (36) after Simpson recovered a fumble during the second quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Behind the quarterback duo of Payton Thorne and Robby Ashford and an opportunistic defense, Auburn began the Hugh Freeze era with a dominant 59-14 win over visiting UMass.

Thorne, a Michigan State transfer, completed 10 of 17 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. Ashford finished with 51 rushing yards and three scores.

Running back Damari Alston started in place of Jarquez Hunter (coaching decision) and tallied 43 rushing yards and a score for the Tigers (1-0). Sean Jackson (45-yard TD run) and Jeremiah Cobb (42-yard scoring run) were also effective out of the backfield.

Cornerback Jaylin Simpson put Auburn up 38-7 early in the second half by returning an interception 50 yards for a touchdown. He also added a fumble recovery.

UMass starting quarterback Taisun Phommachanh was harassed all game and finished with just 55 passing yards. Tailback Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams (team-high 101 rushing yards) and wideout Anthony Simpson (89 receiving yards and a score) stood out for the Minutemen (1-1).

Alston’s 2-yard scoring run on the game’s opening drive put the Tigers up 7-0 less than four minutes into the game. But UMass responded with an 89-yartd scoring march in eight plays, which was capped by a Phommachanh’s 1-yard scoring run.

A 37-yard field goal by Alex McPherson gave Auburn a 10-7 lead with 2:11 to play in the opening quarter. A 56-yard punt return by Keionte Scott set up a 10-yard scoring run by Ashford, which upped the Tigers’ lead to 17-7 early in the second quarter.

A 1-yard scoring run by Ashford pushed Auburn’s lead to 24-7 just over four minutes later. A strip sack by safety Donovan Kaufman led to a fumble recovery by Simpson on the ensuing possession. Ashford pushed the Tigers’ lead to 31-7 with 4:42 to play until halftime on a 4-yard run to pay dirt.

Simpson’s pick-six and a 29-yard touchdown reception by Jay Fair gave Auburn an insurmountable 45-7 lead early in the second half.

–Field Level Media

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