Auburn tried to lose.
But Missouri tried harder, and Auburn somehow won 17-14 in an overtime thriller NOT for the ages Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.
Both teams tried their level best to lose, but in the end Missouri tailback Nathaniel Peat didn’t quite cross the plane of the goal line on The Plains.
Auburn coach Bryan Harsin survived to coach another week by the hair of his chinny chin chin in the Southeastern Conference opener for both schools. It was dubbed the the Fire Bowl as Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz may not be too far behind Harsin in slipping job status.
The Tigers (3-1, 1-0 SEC) beat Missouri on a 39-yard field goal by Anders Carlson in overtime right after he missed a 44-yard boot way wide left, but Missouri wasn’t going to let that go. It was offside on the play, and Carslon got another chance. Then it was Missouri’s turn.
Peat came within inches of scoring a walk-off touchdown for Missouri when he broke what looked like a 20-yard, game-winning touchdown run. But Peat fumbled the ball as he held it out inches from the goal line just as Auburn cornerback Keionte Scott tried to tackle him, and saved the day.
Then Auburn safety Cayden Bridges also saved the day by recovering the ball in the end zone for the touchback and the win just before Missouri offensive lineman Mitchell Walters went for it. Had Walters recovered in the end zone, he would have scored the touchdown for a Missouri win.
The play was reviewed, but it was confirmed that Peat lost control of the ball before crossing the goal line. Missouri fell to 2-2 and 0-1.
“We knew we had to do whatever,” said Auburn redshirt freshman quarterback Robby Ashford, a transfer from Oregon who started his first game. “It was a grimy game. Came down to the last play literally. We never gave up.”
Ashford, who left the game briefly with a shoulder injury, finished 12-of-18 passing for 127 yards and rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown.
“I’m very proud of our guys, because they played all the way through that game and found a way to win,” Harsin said.
Auburn had a chance to win in regulation as it drove inside the Missouri 30-yard line with under two minutes to play. But instead of going for a go-ahead, 46-yard field goal, Harsin went for it on fourth-and-inches from the Missouri 29-yard line. And Missouri stuffed Auburn with 1:37 to go.
Then Missouri quarterback Brady Cook hit wide receiver Dominic Lovett on a 39-yard pass to the Auburn 3-yard line with 49 seconds left. But Harrison Mevis missed a 26-yard field goal wide right as time expired.
Neither team appeared to want to win the game in a scoreless third quarter and most of the fouth quarter after a 14-14 tie at the half.
With six minutes to play in regulation, Auburn was 3 of 14 on third downs, while Missouri was 3 of 11. Auburn finished 3 of 16 on third down, while Missouri finished 4 of 13. Each team punted eight times.
Auburn seemed ready to run away with it in the first quarter when it took a 14-0 lead with 2:55 to play on a 3-yard run by tailback Tank Bigsby after defensive end Derick Hall’s interception and 19-yard return set the Tigers up at Missouri’s 24-yard line.
Ashford gave Auburn a 7-0 lead with 6:01 to go in the first quarter on an 11-yard run.
Missouri tied it in the second quarter on a 9-yard touchdown run by tailback Cody Schrader and a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brady Cook after sustained drives.
Auburn hosts LSU (2-1) on Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPN, while Missouri hosts No. 1 Georgia (4-0), which beat Kent State only by 39-22 on Saturday.
In the other early game Saturday, Mississippi State beat Bowling Green, 45-14.
“Even though it didn’t look like we were going to win,” Ashford said, “it goes in the win column.”