Auburn trailed Georgia State by 12 points at halftime and avoided losing to a Sun Belt team for the first time in program history.
Finley, an LSU transfer who replaced starting quarterback Bo Nix late in the third quarter, led Auburn (3-1) on a 98-yard scoring drive in the final minutes. Safety Smoke Monday sealed the victory, returning an interception 36 yards for a score on the second play of the ensuing drive.
Led by running back Tucker Gregg, Georgia State (1-3) generated 299 yards of offense and 24 points before halftime, but was unable to add to its lead in the final quarters.
The Tigers’ special teams started the comeback with a touchdown off a blocked punt late in the third quarter, and their defense allowed only 85 yards in a second-half shutout.
Auburn: The Tigers avoided a disastrous result, but the game exposed plenty of problems on both sides of the ball. Georgia State had the advantage at the line of scrimmage for most of the game, which is a major issue for a team heading into the start of a tough SEC schedule.
Georgia State: The Panthers will be disappointed to not pull off their second win over an SEC team in three years, but they’ll have a lot of positives to take away from the close loss. Georgia State seems to have rebounded from its early season offensive struggles, as it has been keyed by a strong ground game over the last two weeks.
El no. 23 Tigers dropped one spot in the poll after a loss at Penn State last week, but their underwhelming performance against a large underdog could cost them their place in the Top 25.
HASTA LA PRÓXIMA
Auburn travels to face LSU in its SEC opener on Oct. 2.
Georgia State starts Sun Belt play with a home game against Appalachian State on Saturday.