Honorable Mention: Emory Blake caught three passes for 95 yards and an all-important onside kick. Barrett Trotter came through with the game on the line leading the Tigers to two late touchdowns in his first college start and completed 17-23 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensive Star of the Game: Considering the Tigers struggled to get Utah State's offense off the field with the Aggies enjoying a 37:21 to 22:19 edge in time of possession, nobody was a star on defense for the Tigers.
Rookie Of the Day: Freshman Tre Mason took a kickoff back 97 yards for a touchdown and showed the speed coaches had been pleased with in preseason scrimmages.
Quote Of Note: "I thought it was a very poor defensive performance. That is not acceptable here at Auburn so I fully expect to rectify that this week."--Head Coach Gene Chizik
Downer of the Day: Auburn announced minutes before kickoff that senior linebacker Eltoro Freeman would not play against Utah State. The statement read, "Freeman was declared ineligible after an administrative oversight was discovered regarding the initial eligibility certification process required to be submitted for all student-athletes. The NCAA declared him ineligible for one game as a result of the effort, which was recently discovered.
Chizik said, "I hate it for Eltoro that this occurred because this is on Auburn, but I am glad he is missing only one game. Eltoro has handled this extremely well and we look forward to having him out there next week."
Play Of the Game: Chandler Brooks perfectly executed an onside kick that was caught by receiver Emory Blake to set up the winning touchdown.
Emory Blake nabs the onside kick attempt.
Auburn, Ala.--Trailing 38-28 with just three minutes and 38 seconds left, Auburn looked like it would soon be giving up its claim on college football's longest winning streak. However, a quick scoring drive by the offense, followed by a perfectly executed onside kick and another clutch drive pulled out a 42-38 victory over Utah State on Saturday.
The Tigers raced 65 yards on six plays to cut the gap to 38-35 when Philip Lutzenkirchen pulled in a touchdown pass from Barrett Trotter from 15 yards out with 1:31 on the play.
The Tigers then put two kickers side-by-side, sophomore Cody Parkey and senior Chandler Brooks, as they set up the onside kick with their team trailing by three points. Brooks, a walk-on recently put on scholarship who had never played for the Tigers, perfectly executed a short, pop-up kickoff that junior wide receiver Emory Blake caught in the air, putting the Tigers in business at the Auburn 44-yard line.
"I sort of blanked out when I was kicking, but I knew I kicked it well," Brooks said trying to remember his moment in the spotlight.
Blake, Auburn's most experienced receiver who has been in the spotlight plenty of times, said the kick was right where he needed it to be. "I kept my eye on the ball the whole way," he said. "One of their guys also went up for the ball, but I got it."
The Tigers then executed their hurry-up offense to move 56 yards on eight plays with Trotter finding receivers to move the chains. Running back Michael Dyer scored on a one-yard run with 30 seconds left to give the Tigers the victory.
The Auburn special teams stepped up again with Parkey drilling the kickoff out of the back of the end zone, putting the Aggies and their red-hot freshman quarterback at the 20-yard line. The Auburn defense, which had been embarrassed much of the day, came through with a stop and Auburn won the first game of the season and the 16th straight dating back to the 2009 team's bowl victory in Tampa over Northwestern.
Chizik gave his team credit for finding a way to win, but he was clearly not a happy head coach after the victory. "Anytime you can get a win, no matter how you get it, you have to be pleased with that," he said.
"I was pleased with a very young team being able to fight through a lot of adversity and persevere,"?he said. "At times it didn't look very good."
Chizik said the positive was the Tigers finding a perform well under pressure, a trademark of recent Auburn teams. Chizik said in that regard he was "thrilled" by the comeback victory, but other than that and the play of special teams the head coach made his displeasure known.
"Obviously, everyone who saw the football game realizes we did not play well as a football team," he said. "There are no excuses for that. We just didn't play well.
"I think it was very evident the most experienced part of our team was special teams," Chizik pointed out. "I don't think there is any question, offensively and defensively, we are a long way off from being able to win very many games right now."
Last year the Auburn defensive front was tough to run against, but the rebuilt group struggled against the Aggies, who returned 10 offensive starters. Utah State rushed for 258 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per rush.
The new starter on the Utah State offense, true freshman quarterback Chuckie Keeton, was impressive from start to finish. He led a Utah State attack that did not have a turnover as he completed 21-30 passes for 213 yards. He also ran the ball effectively in key situations.
"I thought it was a very poor defensive performance," Chizik said. "That is not acceptable here at Auburn so I fully expect to rectify that this week.
"Offensively, I thought the same for much of the game," Chizik added. "Finally, for the last quarter or so we actually looked like an offense that was a college offense. Other than that we did not. That is how I feel about it."
The visitors, who almost upset Oklahoma in their 2010 opener, nearly pulled off a victory as a three-touchdown underdog. There were many reasons the Aggies went into the final minutes with a 10-point lead. One was their performance on third downs. Utah State converted 10-19 opportunities. Auburn made just 3-9.
Utah State out-gained the Tigers 448-364 in total yards. Trotter led the Tigers by completing 17-23 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in a game that was turnover free.
Dyer was Auburn's leading rusher with 14 carries for 57 yards and two TDs. Onterio McCalebb had nine catches for 44 yards and caught five passes for 43 yards.
In his first start junior Travante Stallworth made four catches for 93 yards and one touchdown. He also had a key catch and run when the Tigers were making their frantic comeback. Blake caught three passes for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Linebacker Jonathan Evans led the Tigers in tackles with seven solos and seven assists. Jake Holland, making his first college start, had four solo stops and seven assist including two of Auburn's 8.5 tackles for lost yardage. The Tigers didn't get a sack until junior end Dee Ford got one on the final series of the game.
Auburn won the toss and deferred, giving Utah State the football to start the game. The Aggies didn't score on their first opportunity, but it didn't take the visitors long to get the scoring started.
After a three-and-out for the Auburn offense on its first possession of the season, the Aggies scored in just three plays from 64 yards out. Kerwynn Williams found a big hole in the left side of the defense and raced untouched into the end zone from 43 yards out to take a 7-0 lead.
Auburn matched that touchdown with a three-play scoring drive that covered 61 yards. On a third down and five play Trotter found Blake on a crossing route and the junior receiver raced 56 yards to tie the game with 8:59 left in the first quarter.
Utah State then put together a 15-play scoring drive featured two key plays. The first was a 25-yard pass play from freshman quarterback Keegan to Xavier Martin to convert a third down and 20 play at the Auburn 45. The second was a fourth and goal at the three-yard line. Keegan beat Corey Lemonier and Daren Bates at left end on a keeper to make the score 14-7 with 1:32 left in the first quarter.
After a three-and-out on three consecutive runs by Michael Dyer, who wasn't getting much room to operate, with the Tigers punted the ball away to the Aggies who kept the ball for 16 plays. Tailback Robert Turbin powered in from the one-yard line for the score and a 21-7 lead for the visitors from the WAC.
It didn't take long for the Tigers to cut the lead in half as freshman Mason returned the kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown showing the speed that made him one of the standouts in preseason drills. That play came with 7:46 left in the second quarter and ended the scoring in the first half.
Onterio McCalebb runs for the Tigers on Saturday.
At halftime the Tigers had run just 16 offensive plays for 118 yards with 88 through the air as Trotter completed all five of his pass attempts. The Aggies kept the football for 42 plays and racked up 213 yards with 116 on 29 running plays and 97 through the air as the freshman QB Keeton hit 11-13 passes.
The Tigers got the opening kickoff of the third quarter and opened with solid field position on a nice return by freshman Quan Bray to the 35. From there the Tigers drove 65 yards on 11 plays. Along the way they converted a fourth down and two at the Utah State 42 as Onterio McCalebb raced for 12 yards at left end.
The touchdown came from 11 yards out as Michael Dyer lined up as the wildcat quarterback and ran at right guard behind good blocking for the touchdown. That tied the game at 21-21 with 11:14 left in the period.
Utah State regained the lead with 4:52 to play on a 34-yard field goal by Josh Thompson.
Auburn pulled ahead for the first time on a 39-yard pass to Stallworth, who faked out two defenders in the open field to cap the drive that covered 72 yards in seven plays.
However, Utah State scored 10 uncontested points. The first was a seven-yard run by Keeton with 11:20 to play to put the Aggies head 31-28. That capped a drive of 65 yards on 14 plays.
Set up by a successfully executed faked field goal on a catch that was questionable but ruled a completion after a review, the Aggies scored with 3:38 left on a one-yard run by Turbin to make the score 38-28, setting up Auburn's frantic comeback victory.
The Tigers open SEC play next Saturday with an 11:21 a.m. kickoff vs. visiting Mississippi State.