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Auburn knocks off Louisville behind new-look pass rush

ATLANTA -- Well, it appears that there's a little something to the Will Muschamp effect. Auburn's defense wasn't great, but after averaging a measly 1.6 sacks per game last year, Auburn's defense registered four sacks in its 31-24 win over Louisville inside the Georgia Dome. The Tigers, who surrendered 230.1 passing yards per game last season, allowed just 167 on Saturday in Muschamp's first game as defensive coordinator.

It wasn't a pretty day for Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson, who finished the day 11-of-21 passing for 137 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, but he'll surely take the win.

What the win means for Auburn: The Tigers are still SEC/playoff contenders, but they will have to hope that Saturday's showing by Johnson was just a case of the jitters. He had a problem seeing routes downfield and threw a handful of ill-advised passes throughout the game, including three ugly interceptions. The running game was great when Peyton Barber got going (21 carries for 113 yards), and he could be the No. 1 back next week against Jacksonville State.

What the loss means for Louisville: Well, the Cardinals came in with a quarterback battle, but watched the nimble Lamar Jackson move the offense much better in the second half after replacing Reggie Bonnafon, who started, in the second quarter. Jackson finished with 206 yards of offense with a rushing touchdown and led the Cardinals on all four scoring drives. If Jackson isn’t the starter now, he’ll have every chance to win it next week against Houston.

Player of the game: While the defensive line played well to start, especially rush-end Carl Lawson and nose tackle Montravius Adams, Barber was the most consistent player in this game. During preseason, all the talk was about Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson at running back, but Barber was easily the best on the field. He crossed the 100-yard mark and averaged 5.4 yards per carry.

Top play: Adams destroyed all of the Cardinals' momentum as they were driving deep into Auburn territory in the second quarter when he broke through the Cardinals' line immediately after the snap and almost stole the handoff. Bonnafon fumbled in the process, and linebacker Justin Garrett took the ball 82 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0 with 6:54 left in the half.