No. 9 Auburn scores late, beats No. 6 Washington 21-16

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 01: Quinten Pounds #21 of the Washington Huskies pulls in this touchdown reception against Jamel Dean #12 of the Auburn Tigers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

ATLANTA (AP) — 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 of 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 of 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.

THE TAKEAWAY

Washington: Aaron Fuller addressed what was perhaps the biggest question mark on the roster, showing he had all the makings of a No. 1 receiver with seven catches for 135 yards. But the Huskies will have to overcome an early blemish on their record to get into the playoff mix, and they failed to strike an early blow for the Pac-12 Conference after its dismal 1-8 performance in last season’s bowl games.

Auburn: The Tigers were eager to avoid another sluggish start. In 2017, they lost early on at Clemson and barely avoided an upset against FCS school Mercer. Also, it really felt good to pull out a victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the same place where they closed last season with losses to Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game and Central Florida in the Peach Bowl.

INJURY REPORT

Washington had to go without starting left tackle Trey Adams, who didn’t make the trip to Atlanta because of a back injury.

The 6-foot-8, 316-pound Adams suffered a torn ACL in his right knee last October. The recovery from that injury has been going well, but Adams began experiencing back issues in practice recently. He was replaced in the lineup by Jared Hilbers, a fourth-year junior.

Auburn lost nickel back Javaris Davis to a hand injury in the second quarter.

Davis was hurt while trying to defend Fuller on a long fade route. The Auburn player was called for pass interference, but Fuller still managed to haul in a 42-yard completion that compounded Davis’ misery. He was led straight to the locker room with a trainer delicately holding his left hand.

ROOF CLOSED

There has yet to be a college football game held outdoors at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The roof is now in working order, but a sweltering day in Atlanta — the temperature was in the low-90s at kickoff — prompted officials to leave the camera lens-like structure closed.

The roof was open Thursday night for an NFL preseason game.

UP NEXT

Washington: The Huskies return to Seattle to host FCS opponent North Dakota, which opened its season with a 35-7 victory over Mississippi Valley State.

Auburn: The Tigers also face an FCS school, Alabama State, in their home opener at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It will be the first game between the schools, even though they are only about 50 miles apart. Auburn is wrapping up its commitment to play every in-state FCS school over a six-year period, having already faced Alabama A&M, Jacksonville State and Samford.