AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Peyton Barber made sure Auburn’s offense got into the end zone this time – repeatedly
Barber rushed for five touchdowns, including a decisive 36-yarder, and Auburn beat San Jose State 35-21 Saturday to snap a two-game losing streak.
The Tigers (3-2) forced four turnovers to help overcome Tyler Ervin’s 160 rushing yards and continued struggles on both sides of the ball. They’d failed to score a touchdown in last week’s loss to Mississippi State, but Barber emphatically ended that drought.
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”He’s a beast,” Auburn quarterback Sean White said. ”He just keeps coming play after play and he doesn’t seem to get tired.”
The Spartans (2-3), who lost last year’s meeting 59-13, wouldn’t go away. Ervin darted for a 2-yard touchdown after Auburn missed a short field goal to pull to within one score with 5:38 left in the fourth quarter.
The onside kick failed and Barber scampered for touchdown No. 5 after four short ones. The Tigers’ workhorse ran for most of his 147 yards in the second half and he was the first Auburn player to run for at least five touchdowns since Carnell Williams scored a school-record six times against Mississippi State in 2003.
Barber, who has been Auburn’s steadiest offensive playmaker, collected his fourth 100-yard effort in five games.
The nation’s leader in all-purpose yards, Ervin followed up a 300-yard rushing game with 27 carries and another big effort.
It’s the second time Auburn has struggled to put away a sizable underdog at home, including an overtime win over FCS Jacksonville State. San Jose State had a 406-342 advantage in total offense.
Auburn fumbled four times but the offense recovered every one, and had an average starting field position of its own 47.
”I think we came out and we were physical in the trenches with Auburn,” Spartans coach Ron Caragher said. ”I know they pride themselves in that and we went toe to toe and I love that.
”I think there were some critical errors that really cost us in this game. ”
The Tigers put the game largely in Barber’s hands. He ran 17 times for 109 yards in the second half while Sean White only put the ball in the air twice. White was 6-of-10 passing for 108 yards in his second start against a defense that came in second nationally in passing yards allowed.
”We didn’t have to throw it that much, and we had some short fields that had something to do with that, too,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. ”We have a good idea of who we are moving forward.”
Former starter Jeremy Johnson didn’t get into the game for a second straight week.
Auburn had two long kick returns if 58 yards from Johnathan Ford and 61 from Blake Countess.
San Jose State didn’t punt until late in the third quarter after converting one of three fourth-down attempts.
Some in the shrunken Auburn crowd booed coach Malzahn’s decision to kick a field goal on fourth-and-1 in the final quarter despite the fact that it could make it a three-score game. Then, Daniel Carlson missed a 25-yard attempt.
”Yeah, you could go for it. But if you’re up by 17, the game’s over,” Malzahn said. ”When you don’t make it, it’s easy to say, `Crap, why didn’t we go for it.”’
The Spartans deepened the Tigers’ angst with an 80-yard touchdown drive aided by a pass interference call against Blake Countess in the end zone. The 177-pound Ervin darted for a 2-yard touchdown with 5:38 left to pull to within 28-21.
A last drive ended with Joe Gray throwing his second interception in a 224-yard passing day.
By that time, thousands of Auburn fans had already hit the exits.