NCAA: Louisiana Monroe 14, (6) Auburn 42
AUBURN, Ala. -- Darius Slayton's 50-yard scoring catch late in the first half gave No. 6 Auburn the lead and the Tigers pulled away for a 42-14 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday to set up next week's visit from No. 1 Alabama.
Kam Martin scored two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, in the third quarter. Nick Ruffin scored on a 45-yard interception return in the fourth. Despite a sluggish first half, Auburn's final production was still impressive: 317 yards rushing and 552 total yards.
Auburn (9-2, No. 6 CFP) can earn a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game by beating Alabama next week.
The Tigers, perhaps distracted by last week's rout of then-No. 2 Georgia and next week's Iron Bowl showdown with Alabama, were tied at 7 with ULM (4-6) late in the first half. Auburn took the lead on Slayton's bomb from Jarrett Stidham with 1:27 remaining in the half.
Auburn pulled away in the third quarter. Stidham added a 41-yard touchdown pass to Martin, who also scored on a 1-yard run.
Cornerback Javaris Davis had an interception and a forced fumble in a span of about two minutes late in the third quarter to help Auburn take control
Kerryon Johnson, the SEC's leading rusher, ran for 137 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. He had six carries for 37 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown run, on Auburn's opening drive.
The Warhawks had a strong answer -- a 13-play touchdown drive helped by a third-down pass interference call against cornerback Jamel Dean. The penalty gave ULM a first down at the Auburn 2. Wide receiver Brian Williams scored on an end-around run on fourth down.
The 7-7 tie held until late in the half when Auburn suddenly rediscovered its offence. The Tigers needed only four plays to cover 96 yards on the drive capped by Stidham's long touchdown pass to Slayton.
Williams scored on a 70-yard pass from Garrett Smith with less than 6 minutes remaining. Malik Miller had a 1-yard touchdown run for Auburn.
ULM: The Warhawks frustrated Auburn most of the first half but struggled to move the ball after their impressive opening drive. Caleb Evans completed only 9 of 25 passes for 86 yards and had 10 carries for 34 yards before ULM turned to Smith, the backup, in the second half. ULM said Evans was not injured.
Auburn: With an eye on next week's visit from Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Tigers' defence should benefit from the challenge posed by ULM dual-threat quarterback Evans. Coach Gus Malzahn should be encouraged by his team outscoring the Warhawks 35-7 after the 7-7 tie. Willis had a 62-yard run after taking over for Stidham late in the game. Martin had 12 carries for 83 yards.
ULM: Hosts Arkansas State on Saturday.
Auburn: Hosts No. 1 Alabama on Saturday to determine SEC Western Division champion.