In a bowl matchup of the SEC and the AAC, the Auburn Tigers used a dominant defense to roll to a 31-10 win over the Memphis Tigers in Birmingham.
The game started quickly for the Auburn run game, marching into Memphis territory in only four plays. Memphis' defense responded and forced a fourth down at the 40-yard line. Facing a fourth and three in plus territory, Auburn caught Memphis sleeping with a fake punt. The fake got Auburn all the way to the three-yard line. Memphis again stuffed Auburn, forcing another fourth down. Auburn drilled a 20-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
After a Memphis punt, Auburn was again in business. Mixing in the passing game, Auburn quickly moved inside the Memphis 10-yard line once again. This time, they could not be stopped with Kerryon Johnson rushing eight yards for the score. A successful PAT gave Auburn a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Needing desperately to respond to the early deficit, Memphis got to work behind quarterback Paxton Lynch. Memphis slowly moved into Auburn territory, before finally getting stopped at the 36-yard line. On came Lou Groza finalist Jake Elliott for a 53-yard attempt. The star kicked drilled it, pulling Memphis within seven at 10-3.
The Memphis offense, rejuvenated by the score, again moved downfield. They again stalled in Auburn territory for if another field goal attempt. This attempt was blocked by Auburn, leaving the score at 10-3.
The Memphis defense came up big throughout the first half, picking off Auburn quarterback Sean White multiple times in the process. The second was the biggest as Reggis Ball took the pass and returned it 53 yards for the game tying score. The final pickoff gave Memphis one last chance to take a halftime lead. Their drive stalled, sending the game to the half tied at 10.
Memphis started the second half in great position following an out of bounds kickoff. Lynch moved the Tigers into the red zone, but saw his pass tipped in the air and intercepted in the end zone for a touchback. The Memphis defense limited any damage from the turnover, forcing Auburn to punt.
After a pair of punts, Auburn was back in business with a 30-yard return to the Memphis 44-yard line. An 8-play, 44-yard drive followed with Auburn taking the lead at 17-10 on a rare passing touchdown. Memphis was unable to respond, quickly going no three and out.
A tired Memphis defense could not slow down Auburn as the Tigers marched 76 yards in nine plays to extend their lead to 24-10. Auburn was again knocking on the endzone following a 50 yard punt return to the Memphis six-yard line. This time, a four-yard run up the middle ended in the end zone. With a successful PAT, the score was 31-10 in favor of Auburn.
Memphis had one last chance to add to their tally, but they were turned away by Auburn late in the fourth quarter. When the clock hit zero in Birmingham, Auburn were 31-10 victors over Memphis.