Melvin Ray (above) runs after making a catch vs. Memphis on Wednesday at Legion Field.
Birmingham, Ala.--Melvin Ray caught two passes for 50 yards in Auburn’s 31-10 Birmingham Bowl victory, but the big story for the receiver was that he and his fellow seniors went out as winners.
“I wanted to make the best of every opportunity because I knew this was my last one,” said Ray, the former pro baseball player who got a late start on his college football career.
Ray and his teammates celebrated a victory that gave the Tigers a 7-6 record and their first bowl victory in Gus Malzahn’s third season as their head coach. Ray said it was special to be able to share the feeling with the other Tigers.
I am appreciative of what I had here with my teammates and coaches,” he said. “We are family.”
A strong second half sparked the Tigers to a victory in a game that was tied 10-10 at intermission.
“In the second half we just locked in and said we had to finish,” Ray said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times in the first half. We moved the ball in the first half, but we didn’t finish. We wanted to make sure we did that in the second half because for the seniors this was the last go-around.”
Going into the game the underclassmen said it was very important to send the seniors out with a bowl victory. “I definitely appreciate that,” Ray said with a big smile. “It was probably, in all phases, one of our best all-around games. It is a good feeling to go out like this.”
*Auburn improved its record to 23-15-2 in bowl games as a Birmingham Bowl record crowd of 59,430 watched at Legion Field.
*Blake Countess was the first Auburn player to block a field goal since Nosa Eguae did it vs. Alabama in 2013. Countess played both safety and cornerback in the game.
*In addition to Peyton Barber extending Auburn’s streak of 1,000-yard rushers to seven seasons, the sophomore became the ninth Tiger to break the 1,000-mark during that stretch. Overall, 13 players have rushed for that many yards with Malzahn as a college offensive coordinator or head coach.
*Jovon Robinson rushed for 126 yards, his second time to break the 100-mark, and the eighth time a Tiger back did it this year. Barber had the other six. Robinson rushed for 159 vs. Texas A&M.
*Freshman Kerryon Johnson’s 36-yard reception on a pass from punter Kevin Phillips was the longest catch of the season for Johnson. The freshman also scored his third rushing touchdown.
*QB Sean White finished the season with the following AU freshman rankings: third in passing yardage (1,166), fourth in pass attempts (144) and fifth in pass completions (83)
*Rudy Ford led the Tigers in tackles for the season with 118, the most since 2001 when linebacker Dontarrious Thomas made 121.
*Freshman Jeff Holland made his first college QB sack.
*Carlton Davis led the Tigers with a 11 tackles, a season high for the freshman cornerback.
*Marcus Davis had a career-longest and season-longest punt return of 55 yards.