ATLANTA — Jatarvious Whitlow ran 10 yards for a touchdown with 6:15 remaining and the Auburn defense came through at the end, leading the No. 9 Tigers a 21-16 victory over No. 6 Washington that provided a big boost to their resume in the very first game of the season Saturday.
Trailing 16-15 after missing a two-point conversion on their opening possession of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, Auburn drove 76 yards in 10 plays for the winning score. Jarrett Stidham kept it going with a 12-yard pass to Chandler Cox on third-and-9.
Then, facing third-and-7 deep in Washington territory, Auburn handed off inside to Whitlow, who knocked over a Washington safety as he barreled into the end zone.
Washington drove to the Auburn 37 with plenty of time to pull off the comeback, but Myles Gaskin was thrown for a 3-yard loss and Jake Browning was stymied by a fierce pass rush on back-to-back plays to preserve the Tigers’ victory.
“We beat one of the better teams in the country,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We’ve got a lot of things we can correct. But I’m proud of our team, the way they won. Sometimes, it’s how you win a game that helps you later in the season.”
Stidham was 26-for-36 for 273 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Sal Cannella, who made a leaping grab in the end zone before landing flat on his back.
Browning, looking to bounce back from a disappointing junior season, completed 18-for-32 for 296 yards. He was picked off once but connected with Quinten Pounds on a 13-yard touchdown in the final minute of the first half.
Peyton Henry put the Huskies ahead for the first time with his third field goal, a 30-yarder that clanked off the right upright but ricocheted through with 14:06 remaining.
Both teams squandered scoring chances.
Anders Carlson, taking over from older brother Daniel as Auburn’s kicker, connected on three field goals — including a 53-yarder — but also missed from 33 and 54 yards.
Washington was kicking itself after coming away from a first-and-goal with no points. On third down at the 3, Browning rolled right looking to make a pitch only to be smacked by Nick Poe. The ball squirted free and Auburn’s Darrell Williams fell on it at the 20.
Another chance was wasted when Henry shanked a 40-yard field-goal attempt.
Washington’s Aaron Fuller made seven catches for 135 yards.