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Punchless Auburn Football Loses 5th Straight – 17-13 To Houston In Birmingham Bowl

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Punchless Auburn lost its fifth straight game and finished with a losing record for the first time in nine years with a 17-13 defeat to No. 20 Houston in front of a mostly Auburn sold-out crowd of 47,100 at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama, Tuesday afternoon.

“You’ve got to be able to score,” said Auburn coach Bryan Harsin, who turned in the first losing season for a first-year Auburn coach since Tommy Tuberville went 5-6 in 1999. “We had our opportunities.”

Auburn has scored 23 total points in regulation of its last two games. The Tigers lost 24-22 to Alabama in four overtimes to close the regular season after a 10-10 tie in the first four quarters.

Auburn (6-7) had a losing season for the first time since going 3-9 in 2012. It was Auburn’s third straight loss by four points or less.

“You’ve got to be on point,” Harsin said. “I’m most disappointed for the seniors. There are a lot of things I know we can be better at. Finishing off games is a big part of that.”

Houston (12-2) trailed 13-10 late in the third quarter after a 12-yard touchdown pass from Auburn quarterback TJ Finley to wide receiver Kobe Hudson, but Auburn could not hold on.

Houston quarterback Clayton Tune completed a 26-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jake Herslow with 3:27 to play in the game for the 17-13 lead. Replays showed a Houston offensive lineman holding on the play.

Tune completed 26 of 40 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Finley hit 19 of 37 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown. Auburn tailback Tank Bigsby led all rushers with 96 yards on 16 carries.

Auburn trailed 10-0 in the second quarter before Ben Patton’s 27-yard field goal got the Tigers withing 10-3 with 3:10 to go before halftime at the new stadium on the Alabama-Birmingham campus, which sold out for the game on Monday.

Auburn’s offense failed in the end of another drive in the third quarter as it settled for a 35-yard field goal by Patton to cut Houston’s lead to 10-6.

“Next year, hopefully, we won’t have the same issues,” Harsin said.

Tune put his team ahead 7-0 midway through the first quarter on a 5-yard touchdown pass to running back Alton McCaskill, finishing off an 87-yard drive in 12 plays. Dalton Witherspoon’s 52-yard field goal put the Cougars up 10-0 with 6:58 left in the second quarter. McCaskill gained 78 yards on 14 carries.

Auburn had two players ejected from the game for obvious targeting hits. Senior safety Smoke Monday blindsided, defenseless wide receiver Nathaniel Bell with a blow to the head with the crown of his helmet during a 33-yard yard interception return by cornerback Nehemiah Pritchett in the third quarter. Bell was turned the other way just before Monday’s head hit.

Monday had previously been called for targeting in the first half, but upon further review, the penalty was erased. Bell led all receivers with 10 catches for 150 yards.

Auburn cornerback Jaylin Simpson used the crown of his helmet to hit Tune in the head area when Tune was already on the way down in the fourth quarter on Houston’s game-winning drive.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

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  1. So, with tonight’s 27-7 pasting of Mississippi State [through three quarters], the SEC is ZERO and four in bowl season?

    Three of the losses to Big 12 or soon to be Big 12 teams [UCF, Houston, Texas Tech] and one to ARMY.

    SEC apologists need to go the way of Oregon and Michigan State fans who whined about being ‘disrespected’ by the committee. Grab some nog and enjoy the games, but save the rest of us the nonsense.

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