Houston No.21 defeats Auburn 17-13 at Birmingham Bowl
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Jake Herslow caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Clayton Tune with 3:27 left to help No. 21 Houston to a 17-13 victory over Auburn on Tuesday in the Birmingham Bowl.
The Cougars (12-2) covered 80 yards in eight games to cap the third season in program history with at least 12 wins. They ended a four-game losing streak and won 12 of their last 13 games, the only loss suffered by No.4 Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
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The Tigers (6-7) went in the opposite direction in coach Bryan Harsin’s first season. They ended a season with five straight losses for the first time in 71 years and lost their third bowl game in a row.
Game MVP Tune completed 26 of 40 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns with an interception while rushing for 43 yards. Nathaniel Dell caught 10 passes for 150 yards, while Alton McCaskill ran for 66 yards and caught a touchdown pass.
Auburn, who fired offensive coordinator Mike Bobo after the regular season, had one more chance but couldn’t get a first try. Tank Bigsby ran 8 yards on the first down, then TJ Finley threw three straight misses on short passes.
Houston ran out of time.
Finley completed 19 of 34 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown on his third start since replacing injured Bo Nix. Bigsby had 88 rushing yards and 68 receiving yards.
The Cougars had moved to midfield for the go-ahead score after Auburn’s second target ejection, this time against Jaylin Simpson.
Tune set him up with a 20-yard pass to tight end Christian Trahan.
The Tigers rallied from a 10-0 deficit to take the lead late in the third quarter thanks to a 12-yard touchdown from Finley’s Kobe Hudson on third and base.
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Take it away
Houston punctuated one of its best seasons with a victory over a Southeastern Conference team, the latter after taking off following an opening loss.
Auburn had another game that escaped late, including a quadruple overtime loss to the No.1 Alabama. The Tigers were deprived of some key players who were injured, transferred or withdrawn.
Auburn Safety Smoke Monday was the first player sent off for aiming after an earlier flag against him was called off. This call came during Nehemiah Pritchett’s intercept return. The penalty sent the Tigers back 47 meters.
Houston will try to close the gap on Cincinnati with an attack that should dismiss Tune and fullback Alton McCaskill. The Cougars open against UTSA.
Auburn has an important offseason that includes replacing Nix, who was injured and then transferred to Oregon. The Tigers open against Mercer.
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