Second Half Propels Auburn Over LA Tech
Sept. 5, 2009
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn quarterback Chris Todd connected with Terrell Zachary for a 93-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter to ignite a strong second half by the Tigers who defeated Louisiana Tech 37-13 before over 81,143 fans Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Bulldogs stood toe-to-toe with the Tigers (1-0) in the opening two quarters as only a 49-yard Wes Byrum field goal as time expired in the half separated the two teams as Auburn led 13-10 entering the locker room.
However, early in the second half with LA Tech driving, the Tigers defense intercepted Ross Jenkins on their own three-yard line. On a third down and five play following the turnover, Todd hit Zachary on an out-and-up and Zachary raced untouched to the end zone giving Auburn a 20-10 lead.
The Bulldogs would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the game as the Tigers outscored them 24-3 over the final two quarters.
"I have to start by giving Auburn credit," said Tech head coach Derek Dooley. "They did a great job. They are a physical football team. They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides. Anytime you give up over 300 yards rushing, you are not going to have a good chance of winning.
"I thought we fought them hard early. I was disappointed we gave up two big plays, one in the third quarter and one in the fourth. We were not playing smart, and we had a couple of mental errors. We couldn't respond offensively. On the road you have to execute the simple things."
Auburn racked up over 500 yards of total offense in the game, including more than 200 on both the ground and through the air. After not surrendering a 100-yard rusher in 2008, the LA Tech defense saw both Ben Tate (20-117) and Onterio McCalebb (22-148) eclipse the plateau. McCalebb became the first Auburn freshman to rush for more than 100 yards in their first career game since Bo Jackson accomplished the feat in 1982.
"We prepared for their offense but the hard part was the big offensive line and the two big running backs," Dooley said. "Every time you try to hit them there is no way you can simulate it. It seemed like we were behind the chains every time they handed it off to Ben Tate. We might be in good position but then they would scurry for six or seven yards. Then they would get around the edge, so they have a good combination of power and speed."
The Bulldogs totaled 245 yards of total offense and 19 first downs.
Daniel Porter led Tech with 56 yards on 17 carries while Jenkins completed 18-of-33 passes for 149 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Jenkins started the game hitting on his first 10 attempts, a career best, as his first incompletion didn't occur until less than four minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Auburn took an early 3-0 lead as the Tigers marched 69 yards on 13 plays before Wes Byrum connected from 26-yards out. The drive was aided by a roughing the passer call against the Bulldogs around midfield after it appeared Tech had stopped the drive on an incomplete third down pass by UA quarterback Chris Todd.
However, the Auburn lead was short-lived as the Bulldogs took their opening possession and drove 72 yards on eight plays as Ross Jenkins hit Dennis Morris on a 19-yard touchdown pass in the back of the endzone, giving LA Tech a 7-3 advantage. Morris leaped high between two Auburn defenders to pull down the scoring toss with 5:00 to play in the opening quarter.
The Tech scoring drive was also aided by the yellow flag as Auburn was penalized 45 yards on one pass interference penalty and two face mask penalties.
Auburn responded on its next offensive series as Kodi Burns scored from one-yard out with 1:33 to play in the first quarter, making the score 10-7 Auburn. The touchdown run capped a 10-play, 66-yard drive that was highlighted by a 26-yard toss from Todd to Mario Fannin.
Following the third score in the first three possessions of the game, the two defenses settled down. Auburn appeared to be driving midway through the second quarter when Bulldog defensive lineman Matt Broha recovered a Tigers fumble on the LA Tech six-yard line with 7:07 to play in the second quarter.
Tech's offense then put its best drive of the night together, converting four third downs on an 18-play, 90-yard march that led to a Matt Nelson 20-yard field goal, tying the game at 10-10 with only 0:23 remaining in the half. Nelson's field goal, the first of his career, came one play after Adrian Linwood pulled down a Jenkins pass in the corner of the endzone but came down just out of bounds.
On the drive Jenkins threw his first incompletion of the night after starting the game with 10 straight completions.
The game would not remain tied for long as Auburn started on its own 40-yard line and used three plays to set up a 49-yard Byrum field goal as time expired as the Tigers entered the locker room leading 13-10.
After Auburn scored the first 10 points of the second half, Nelson booted a 46-yard field goal attempt to close the margin to 23-13 with 00:52 to play in the third quarter.
However, the Tigers scored two touchdowns in the final 15 minutes - a 17-yard pass from Todd to Darvin Adams and a three-yard run by Onterio McCalebb.
Adrien Cole led Tech defensively with 10 tackles.
Tech returns to action next Saturday when it travels to Annapolis to face the Navy Midshipmen, who fell 31-27 at Ohio State Saturday.
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