Mistakes in the second half turned what had the potential to be a comfortable Auburn victory into a nail-biter at Jordan-Hare Stadium that was decided by the right foot of Cody Parkey in overtime.
The junior kicker, who was 5-5 this season on previous field goal attempts, stayed perfect with a 35-yarder to win the game after the Tigers partially blocked ULM's field goal attempt to start the overtime.
"I got my hand on that kick," said defensive tackle Angelo Blackson, who noted the Tigers spend a good bit of time in practice working on blocking kicks. Earlier in the day defensive end Corey Lemonier blocked a field goal try.
A 10-yard run on the first play of overtime by Tre Mason to the 15-yard line was followed by a centering run to the middle of the field for Parkey's kick. Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said the junior is automatic from that area of the field so that is why he decided to kick instead of try for a touchdown.
Tre Mason runs the football in overtime.
"That is why I am here on the team to be able to make kicks like that," said Parkey, who noted his only previous game-winning field goal was at Jupiter High School in Florida. "Coach Chizik trusted me and wanted (QB Kiehl Frazier) to take a knee on second down and gave me a chance to make a kick. I was kicking great in warmups."
Parkey said from 35 yards out he is in the 90s for a percentage of kicks he makes in practices. "Coach (Jay) Boulware gives me a lot of kicks in that range," he noted.
The Tigers made what had the opportunity to be a comfortable finish difficult with a pair of second half turnovers. The first came on a fumble by tailback Mike Blakely just outside the ULM goal with 1:40 left in the third quarter. Auburn had a golden opportunity to push the lead up to 35-14 at that time, but got nothing out of the good drive.
"You go in and you punch that ball in at the one-yard line and now it is a three touchdown game, and I think it is a whole different ball game," Chizik said. "That definitely swung momentum in their direction."
ULM fought back in the fourth period after the fumble with TD drives of 65 yards and 59 yards on the pinpoint passing of lefty Kolton Browning, who hit 28-46 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 58 yards and another score.
The Warhawks cut the lead to 28-21 with 6:15 left following an interception thrown by Frazier. Then, after Auburn failed to respond to the ULM score, the Warhawks got the ball back and tied the game with 1:18 left on a six-yard pass to Colby Harper and the PAT by Justin Manton.
Frazier, who struggled after the interception, was unable to get Auburn into scoring position at the end or regulation play and the Tigers punted the ball away setting up the overtime and Parkey's game-winner.
ULM opened the game in impressive fashion with an 89-yard drive in 12 plays. After Jeffrey Whitaker made a stop on third an inches short of the goal line for a loss, the Warhawks went for a fourth down pass and tight end Harley Scioneaux ran past linebacker Cassanova McKinzy to make a catch in the end zone for a TD.
Auburn quickly matched the score by moving 76 yards on five plays. The longest gainer was a 34-yard catch and run by Tre Mason moving the ball to the 27-yard line. On the next play Onterio McCalebb found a hole behind fullback Jay Prosch and raced into the end zone.
The Tigers appeared to score again in the opening period on a 48-yard pass to Sammie Coates, who made a diving catch at the pylon in front of the student section. However, an illegal procedure penalty negated the play and the Tigers didn't score.
ULM regained the lead in the second quarter with a six-play possession that featured a third and long pass completion by Browning over T'Sharvan Bell. Browning then scored on a keeper, racing untouched 39 yards up the middle with 3:52 on the clock on a defensive line stunt that went awry.
Kiehl Frazier races to the end zone on a touchdown pass play.
Auburn again responded with a TD drive. The Tigers raced 75 yards on four plays. The score came on a trick play. Auburn overloaded the left side of the field and threw a lateral pass to Quan Bray. The former high school quarterback took several steps back toward the middle of the field, gained his balance and threw an across the field pass behind the line of scrimmage to Frazier. The QB had a convey of linemen in front of him and scored from 33 yards out.
A good special teams play by freshman Josh Holsey on the kickoff put the Warhawks on their own seven. Three runs produced nothing. Auburn got the ball back at the ULM 38 with no timeouts and 22 seconds left.
Frazier scrambled for five yards on first down before running out of bounds. On second down his pass was incomplete. On third down, with just seven seconds left, Auburn bypassed a 51-yard field goal try. Frazier got away from pass rush passer and lofted a ball high into the back of the end zone and Coates jumped up and made the catch on the final play of the half to put the Tigers up 21-14.
Sammie Coates makes his first college touchdown catch.
At the Break: Auburn netted 85 rushing yards on 14 carries in the first half while ULM gained 101 yards on 21 runs. The Tigers completed 10-13 passes for 147 yards while ULM?hit 10-16 passes for 105 yards.
Auburn got the kickoff after halftime and drove 65 yards on 11 plays. Mason capped the drive with a one-yard run. The big play of the possession was a 29-yard run by McCalebb.
That was the end of the scoring for the home team in regulation as the Tigers struggled to consistently move the ball the rest of the day. In the fourth quarter the Tigers netted just 36 yards of offense while ULM gained 109 to fuel its drive to overtime for a second straight week. Unlike last week vs. Arkansas, the Warhawks came up short in extra time and failed to beat the Tigers for the ninth time in nine tries.
Although it wasn't a stylish victory, All-SEC junior Lemonier was glad to get it. "It's great to have our first win," he said. "Louisiana-Monroe came out and fought hard, but we fought harder. We are going to look at our mistakes this week and prepare for LSU."
Missing Man: Backup safety Erique Florence was not dressed out after missing a team meeting on Thursday. Chizik said the sophomore was not there for personal reasons and noted he didn't know what Florence's status will be with the team.
Warhawks On Fourth Down: Last week vs. Arkansas, ULM converted six of seven fourth downs. They were 3-4 vs. the Tigers.
Tribute To A Former Teammate: Starting offensive guard Chad Slade said that he wore No. 78 to honor Ed Christian, who was shot and killed in June. Christian, from Valdosta, Ga., was an offensive lineman for the Tigers who had to give up football last year due to a series of injuries, but was a student at AU.
Ground Game: Auburn rushed for 255 yards and the first two rushing touchdowns of the season. McCalebb led all rushers with 128 yards on 11 carries.
For the game Auburn finished with total 418 yards, 10 more than the visitors.
Number Of Note: Auburn survived despite having to defend 89 plays by the ULM offense. Auburn had the football for 61 plays.
Number of Note, Part 2: Although it wasn't as bad as a week early when the Tigers were minus five in turnover margin, against the Warhawks the number was minus two.
Number of Note, Part 3: The Tigers didn't help their cause with seven penalties for 65 yards. ULM had just two for 20 yards.
Up Next: Auburn returns to SEC play with a 6 p.m. CDT home game next Saturday vs. LSU.