Raise your hand if you predicted T.J. Finley leading a 13-play, 98-yard touchdown drive for a 34–24 comeback victory against Georgia State on homecoming.
Now all of you liars, put your hands down.
In what was a very sloppy game from start to finish the Tigers scored a go-ahead touchdown with under a minute left to give them their first lead since early in the second quarter.
“‘(I told my teammates) let's have a 98-yard td drive,’ it was as simple as that,” Finley said. “They told me they got me, and I told them I got y’all.”
Georgia State scored the first points of the afternoon on a 32-yard field goal by kicker Noel Ruiz. On their first drive, the Panthers had a 57-yard rush by running back Tucker Gregg. That rush was only a preview for the rest of the first half for Gregg and the rest of the Georgia State offense.
Nehemiah Pritchett helped set up the first score of the day for the Tigers, returning a kickoff 72 yards to the Georgia State 28 yard line. Nix and the offense were unable to move the ball, setting up the first of four first half field goals for kicker Anders Carlson.
“Anders kept us in the game with the field goals,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “(It’s) not ideal, you want to score touchdowns, but he did make his field goals.”
The Panthers would score touchdowns on three consecutive drives to mount a 24–12 lead going into halftime.
“They whooped us in a lot of ways,” Harsin said. “And I think that's something that everyone in that locker room knows.”
An uneventful first half for the Auburn offense saw Nix complete 11 of 22 passes for 128 yards. The run game was strong per usual, with Tank Bigsby, Jarquez Hunter and Shaun Shivers combining for 102 yards in the first half. Shivers – playing in his first game since the season opener – had a long carry of 27 and Hunter had a long carry of 26.
“We didn’t play up to our standard in the first half,” linebacker Chandler Wooten said, “just unacceptable. Really in all three phases of the game.”
In the closing moments of the third quarter the Tigers finally gave the crowd something to cheer about that wasn’t a field goal. Caylin Newton blocked a Georgia State punt, and Barton Lester recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
“It means the world to me,” Newton said. “I didn't know if they were going to block down or block out. I just went full speed and expected to make the play, and I made the play”
Following the special teams score, Harsin made a change at quarterback and put in sophomore T.J. Finley. Seeing the transfer from LSU take the field for the Tigers reinvigorated the crowd, with the student section happy that their earlier chants of “We want T.J.!” were being answered.
“I made the decision to try and change, and create some kind of momentum,” Harsin said. “That was my decision.”
Finley was more of the same at first, overthrowing a lot of his receivers and receivers dropped passes. However, late in the fourth quarter saw Finley make his final stand, leading a 13-play, 98-yard scoring drive to give the Tigers the lead with 45 seconds left to take a 27–24 lead.
“I was quite disappointed in myself, I missed a wide open touchdown,” Finley said. “My mindset was just ‘next play.’ I saw pressure from the left side, I spun out and saw Shedrick.”
On the ensuing drive Smoke Monday intercepted quarterback Darren Grainger, returning the pass 36 yards for a touchdown. The pick-six gave Auburn a 34–24 lead, which would be the final score.
Harsin has yet to announce who will be the starting quarterback next week when the Tigers travel to LSU.