Tigers Roll Past Ball State In Season Opener

The Tigers kept Ball State out of Auburn territory the entire game.

Auburn, Ala.--A cat-quick defense dominated the day as the Auburn Tigers opened the season with a 30-0 victory over the Ball State Cardinals on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Tommy Tuberville substituted early and often as he got a serious look at second stringers and even some third stringers before going into SEC play next week against the visiting Ole Miss Rebels.

The visitors didn't cross midfield against the Auburn defense and managed just 92 total yards while Auburn racked up 385. Perhaps more impressively on offense was the fact that the Tigers didn't have a turnover with its freshman quarterback leading the way.

"I wasn't nervous out there after I got hit the first time," Campbell said. "It was different being in a live game. It has been two years since I played in high school."

Defensive coordinator John Lovett said that his initial impression was that there were very few busts on defense, even from young players in the starting lineup like true freshman Carlos Rogers at cornerback. "I was real pleased with our effort and we got to play a lot of people."

Auburn's second team defense was also tough. For the evening, BSU managed just two rushing first downs and three via the passing lanes.

"We know this isn't like plaing Ole Miss, but it was a good start," said senior defensive end James Callier. "Getting a shutout is good, but to gain respect as a team we will have to do well against a team like Ole Miss."

One of the most interesting parts of the game was that sophomore Brandon Johnson was a star on both offense and defense. He leveled several Cardinals with big blocks at fullback. He ran the ball three times for 19 yards and just missed a touchdown. "I wanted that one," he said with a smile after the game. "One of their guys tripped on the play."

On defense in the second half, he got the only turnover in the game when he fell on a fumble forced by senior defensive end Alton Moore, one of a pack of defensive linemen who terrorized the Cardinal QBs from start to finish.

Auburn scored on its second possession, moving 55 yards on just four plays. Ronnie Brown used strong blocking by the left side of the line to race 43 yards for a touchdown, running through one would-be tackler on the way and outracing the secondary with a dive into the corner of the north end zone. Damon Duval's PAT gave the Tigers a 7-0 edge with 9:50 to play in the first quarter.

The Tigers scored on their third possession with Joe Walkins setting up the field goal with a 37-yard punt return of a 61-yard boomer. "After sitting out last year as redshirt, I was having a lot of fun out there," Walkins said."I just couldn't wait to play." Duval's 30-yarder stretched the lead to 10-0 with 5:03 in the first half.

The Tigers went more than a quarter on the clock before getting on the scoreboard again. The second touchdown was a one-yard sneak at left guard by redshirt freshman quarterback Jason Campbell. That capped an 11-play, 86-yard drive that featured a fourth and two conversion. On that play, Campbell hit wideout Tim Carter over the middle on a short crossing route for a 20-yard gain to the BSU 17. "Going for fourth down didn't surprise me at all," Campbell said. "That is the way Coach Tuberville likes to play football."

Another good Walkins punt return, a 20-yard dance through the defense, set up Auburn's third touchdown.

Auburn again rolled the dice on a fourth down play. This one was a higher risk situation, fourth and eight at the BSU 45, however, there were big rewards for the bigger risk. Campbell hit tight end Robert Johnson near the first down marker, but the sophomore ran through one tackler, tight-roped the sideline and beat two more Cardinals to the southwest end zone flag with a head-first leap. That put the Tigers on top 24-0 with 48 seconds left in the first half.

The Tigers stretched the lead to 27-0 on Duval's second field goal attempt of the contest. He drilled a 35-yarder to cap a 10-play, 46-yard drive with 4:28 left in the third quarter just before it began to rain at extremely humid Jordan-Hare Stadium.

After having a chip shot field goal blocked, Auburn got the ball back when fullback-turned-linebacker Brandon Johnson recovered a fumble for the first turnover of the game. Alton Moore forced the fumble on the first series for BSU backup quarterback Brian Conn.

Daniel Cobb got the call at quarterback for the Tigers after the fumble, but Auburn went three and out prior to Duval's career-longest field goal, two longer than his previous best of 49 yards.

Auburn's defensive tackles had impressive games. The Cardinals had fits trying to block starters Spencer Johnson and Demarco McNeil. Newcomer, juco transfer Dante Booker, also showed up as a potential major contributor.

Booker said, "It went well, I thought. There weren't any big surprises. To be honest, it was tougher in practice than playing in the game."

McNeil said getting a shutout was big for the Tigers. "That always feels good," said the big defensive tackle who had two tackles before spending much of the game on the bench letting the others play. Johnson had four solo tackles and one assist and Booker contributed four solos, including two behind the line of scrimmage with a sack.

Linebacker Dontarrious Thomas had 3 1/2 tackles with two being quarterback sacks. Moore had three tackles, including one for a sack. The senior defensive end forced a fumble and deflected two passes.

Callier had two solo tackles, including one for a loss, plus a pass deflection.

Tuberville said he was concerned that several Tigers were sidelined with injuries. Freshman tailback Cadillac Williams, who was held to 10 net rushing yards on nine carries, suffered a sprained ankle. He was hurt on one of his three pass receptions for 36 yards.

Backup quarterback Daniel Cobb was knocked out cold in the final minute while scrambling after gaining two yards after running down a wild snap from freshman center Danny Lindsey. Auburn coaches said Saturday night that Cobb should be fine.

Tailback Brown sat out the second half with a bruised shoulder. After the game the redshirt freshman said the problem wasn't serious. "I will be fine," noted.

Brown said it was exciting to score his first college touchdown in his first college game. "The left side of the line opened up a good hole for me and I cut it up field and outran their secondary to the end zone."

Campbell said that big play set the tone and relaxed the QB. "After Ronnie's touchdown, the pressure was off the offense and I just went out there and played football."

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