Vastly different quarterback situations defined the Sugar Bowl Monday night at the Superdome.
Auburn starter Sean White couldn’t stay on the field while Oklahoma’s Heisman finalist provided a series of wow moments to lead the Sooners to a 35-19 win.
On one play late in the third quarter, Baker Mayfield literally ran around the backfield in circles avoiding multiple defenders before completing a 14-yard pass to Geno Lewis.
White left the game with less than five minutes to go in the second quarter with another arm injury, and his return was ruled out during halftime.
His counterpart thrived on the big stage throwing for 296 yards (19 of 28) with two touchdowns. Mayfield extended plays with his legs throughout the game leaving Auburn’s potent defensive line a non-factor.
Auburn’s offense with John Franklin III at the helm couldn’t keep pace, failing to get a first down on all three of its third quarter possessions. Franklin only attempted two passes in the process, and the Tigers finished with 21 yards in the quarter.
Oklahoma extended its 14-13 right out of the break going 75-yards on six plays in less than three minutes. Mayfield hit fellow Heisman finalist Dede Westbrook in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown.
The Tigers went three-and-out on their ensuing possession and the rout was on with Oklahoma padding its lead scoring touchdowns on drives of 84- and 71-yards.
Former starter Jeremy Johnson finished the game at quarterback for Auburn. The beleaguered senior threw an interception in the end zone on his first drive under center.
For White, it was a tough end to a tumultuous year that peaked at midseason, but feel apart due to a series of injury setbacks. The third-year sophomore injured his throwing shoulder against Ole Miss at the end of October and reggravated the injury against Georgia.
On the opening play of the game, White hit Eli Stove on slant route at the Tigers’ sideline for a 12-yard gain to give fans some early hope. White also completed a 13-yard pass to Kyle Davis on the drive to get Auburn inside the 25-yard line.
A bootleg run at the end of the drive ended White’s season.
White lowered his shoulder to get a first down inside the 10-yard line, but was brought down by a group of defenders short of the chains. According to 247 Sports, White’s father said the quarterback broke his forearm on the play.
Auburn went for it on fourth down with Chandler Cox scoring the first touchdown of his career. The 3-yard run capped off a 14-play, 75-yard drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock.
The Tigers stayed in control for much of the quarter with Oklahoma’s longest gain coming from a facemask call on Montravius Adams.
Oklahoma managed 34 total yards on their first two drives (nine combined plays), a total they quickly surpassed in the final minutes of the quarter making it across midfield for the first time.
With the Sooners backed up at their own end zone, running back Joe Mixon took a screen pass 28-yards down his team’s sideline.
The gain came after Jeff Holland almost tackled Mayfield for a safety on the previous play. Mayfield showed off his elusiveness escaping Holland’s grasp and avoiding hard-charging linebacker Darrell Williams.
A chop block called on Oklahoma left tackle Orlando Brown and a separate holding penalty on center Erick Wren should have derailed the drive, but a pair of costly penalties on Auburn’s defense breathed new life into the Sooners’ possession.
Carl Lawson was called offside twice with the second flag coming on a third and 27 where linebacker Deshaun Davis tackled Mixon at the line of scrimmage.
When Oklahoma replayed the down, Mayfield hit Mixon out of the backfield on a wheel route for a 32-yard gain.
Mayfield tied the game up with a 13-yard pass to Mark Andrews with 11:24 to go in the second quarter. The quarterback faced pressure from Lawson on the play, but rolled out of the pocket to his right to buy time.
The Heisman finalist pointed at Andrews in the back of the end zone to get the large 6-foot-5, 250-pound target in position for a well-place throw in coverage.
Auburn jumped back in front behind a 49-yard field goal from Daniel Carlson with 7:16 left in the second quarter.
White went 0 for 3 on the drive with his first deep pass attempt falling 10-yards short of its intended target. With White looking shaky, Oklahoma played aggressively up front to generate pressure on the sophomore.
The quarterback went to the locker room after Carlson hit it through the uprights.
Oklahoma closed out the half with a 14-13 lead thanks to a 3-yard touchdown run from Mixon. Mayfield set the score up with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Dede Westbrook to convert a fourth-and-four at Auburn’s 22-yard line.