After missing the 2011 season with a foot injury, the 6-2, 200-pounder from Leroy had been silent in his Auburn's first two games. That ended Saturday in the Tigers' 31-28 overtime win over ULM.
He had a one-yard catch from Kiehl Frazier in the first quarter for his first college reception. That was hardly an indication of what was to come. Late in the first period Coates stretched out to pull in an apparent 48-yard touchdown pass from Frazier that was negated by an illegal formation penalty.
"I just went and got it," Coates said of the long reception. "Even though it didn't count, I think the coaches gained some trust in me to make something happen."
That trust paid off on the final play of the first half. With the game tied at 14, Coach Gene Chizik decided to go for a "Hail Mary" attempt rather than a field goal of more than 50 yards. Frazier scrambled away from two would-be tacklers and threw to the back of the end zone where Coates jumped high and came down for six points as time expired on the 33-yard play.
"It was a great opportunity for me to make a play and I was fortunate to make it," Coates said. "The coaches are depending on me to step up and grow up. I'm going to try to do what they ask me to do."
In other news and notes:
*Among the prospects visiting Saturday's game were a trio of high-profile 2013 prospects who are committed to Auburn. Linebackers Reuben Foster and Cameron Toney were here for the morning kickoff along with quarterback Jeremy Johnson. Class of 2014 linebacker prospect, Shaun Hamilton, from Carver High in Montgomery attended the game. He is a teammate of Johnson.
Former Tiger football player James Owens was honored in a pre-game ceremony as the first winner of the James Owens Courage Award. Making the presentation was AU Athletic Director Jay Jacobs. Owens is shown with a cane. On his right is his wife, Gloria Owens.
*Highly-touted freshman wide receiver Ricardo Lewis made his presence known on special teams against ULM. He recorded tackles on the first two Auburn kickoffs that left the Warhawks starting from their 11 and 15-yard lines.
*Frazier's TD reception from former high school quarterback turned receiver Quan Bray covered 33 yards in the second quarter. It was the first TD catch by an Auburn quarterback since Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton caught pulled in a touchdown against Ole Miss in 2010. Frazier threw back to Bray behind the line of scrimmage on the left side and then slipped down the right sideline as Bray lofted the ball over a defender to Frazier who sped to the end zone.
*Onterio McCalebb's 27-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against ULM was Auburn's first offensive touchdown since the first quarter of Auburn's 26-19 setback to Clemson on Sept. 1. The Tigers only touchdown since then prior to Saturday was a 100-yard kickoff return by McCalebb in a 28-10 loss to Mississippi State the previous week. Five Cody Parkey field goals represented all of Auburn's other scoring before the ULM contest.
*McCalebb had his fourth career 100-yard rushing game with 128 yards on 11 rushes. He's 12th on Auburn's all-time career rushing list with 2,230 yards. The senior has 3,736 career all-purpose yards, eighth in school history.
*Redshirt freshman offensive guard Christian Westerman didn't dress. He was sidelined with a boot on his foot.