The senior safety was cleared to return to action shortly before preseason practice and stepped up with a key play during overtime of Auburn's 27-24 victory over Clemson Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
After Wes Byrum's 39-yard field goal put Auburn ahead 27-24, Clemson appeared headed for a possible touchdown. With a 2nd-and-5 from Auburn's eight-yard line, Andre Ellington looked like he was going to find some running room before Etheridge made a big stop for no gain.
Clemson then failed to complete a pass on third down and eventually missed a game-tying field goal after a motion penalty nullified what would have been the tying three-pointer.
"I just had to man up and try to make a play to save the game," Etheridge said.
"I just filled the hole behind the fullback and able to make a play on the ball," explained the senior safety who was Auburn's second leading tackler on the night with four solo stops to go with three assists.
Etheridge was part of the Auburn defense that surrendered two touchdowns and a field goal in the first half when the Auburn offense was ineffective until the last play of the half when Wes Byrum nailed a 35-yard field goal.
"We came into the locker room at halftime and told each other we were not going to quit," Etheridge said. "We kept fighting. It really showed the character of our team. We leaned on each other and kept on fighting.
"In the first half they were doing all of their trick plays, screens and shifting. We expected it, but things did not work out for us in the first half."
Etheridge knows Auburn will learn from the win over Clemson. "You just have to believe in your teammates,"?he said. "A lot of guys, they come from different backgrounds and you just have to have a bond when you're playing in a game like this. You know it could be all about me, but this game is not about you. We just have got that this year. We are all going to play for one another and play for the Man up above," he said.
In other news and notes from the game:
*The long-awaited first appearance of true freshman Trovon Reed came against Clemson after he missed Auburn's first two games with a bruised knee. Wearing number 1, Reed lined up as the wildcat quarterback. Both times he ran the ball, picking up six and two yards to finish with eight yards rushing in his collegiate debut.
*Darvin Adams had his fifth career 100-yard receiving game and his first this season, pulling in five passes for 118 yards. He moved into 16th place on Auburn's career receiving chart and now has 1,229 career receiving yards.
*Adams had all five of Auburn's passes from Newton until the quarterback found Terrell Zachery on a 78-yard touchdown completion late in the third quarter. The only other Auburn receiver to catch a pass was H-back Eric Smith for a seven-yard gain.
*Wes Byrum's game-winning field goal from 39 yards in overtime was his second of the game, the other from 35 yards to get Auburn on the board for the first time on the last play of the first half. Bryum's field goals were Auburn's first and last points of the game and was the fourth game-winning field goal in his career.
*Onterio McCalebb's 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was his first of the season and fifth of the sophomore's career.
*Zachery's 78-yard touchdown catch from Cameron Newton is tied for the 10th longest in Auburn history. It was the second longest of his career, only topped by his school-record 93-yard touchdown reception against Louisiana Tech in 2009.