The Tigers were even more dominant than the final scored indicated.
The victory evened Auburn's record at 2-2 while Western Kentucky fell to 3-1 as its 13-game winning streak was snapped and snapped hard. The Hilltoppers didn't manage a single first down against the Auburn starting defense and were down 38-0 at intermission. That allowed Tommy Tuberville to turn the game over to his reserves in the second quarter.
"Our motto at the first of last week on Sunday, the first thing I told them on is that no matter what happens, we are going to be the most physical team on the field," said Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville. "We had to do that. We have gotten away from--tackling and on both sides--winning the battle in the trenches. To have a chance to be success as we go down to the next few games, we have got to continue to have that mentality."
Brandon Jacobs is fired up after making a run for a first down.
Tuberville said the attacking mentality is essential for the Tigers to be successful against strong teams coming up on the schedule such as next week's visitor to Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Tennessee Volunteers. "It worked today," he said. "It worked two weeks ago against Vanderbilt. Hopefully, we can continue that mindset."
The Tigers racked up 392 yards of total offense by halftime and the Hilltoppers were averaging less than a yard per offensive play at intermission. With no first downs and just 11 total yards on eight passing plays and 11 runs, the visitors were getting their butts whipped up front by the defensive line of Demarco McNeil, Spencer Johnson, Dexter Murphy, T.J. Jackson, Doug Langenfeld, Reggie Torbor, Timmy Duckworth, Bret Eddins and friends. The secondary, with Junior Rosegreen adding some physical muscle at safety, came through with some big hits as did the linebacker corps.
The only negative on defense was the Tigers' only caused one turnover, a Kevin Hobbs interception as the walk-on made his first Auburn start, but the lack of turnovers forced was no big problem as the defending Division I-AA national champs were overmatched by an Auburn team that have obviously taken the Hilltoppers seriously.
"We were scared to death," Tuberville said. "Anytime you play a team with a 13-game winning streak that had played real well this year and hadn't given up a touchdown--everybody got real focused."
"We started off fast and ended on a good note," Tuberville said. "Usually, when you play that many players, you have a lot of problems with organization and guys getting in place, but it was a good day. The coaches did a good job. It was a good game after coming off an open date. We needed that. We needed to built our confidence.
"On both sides of the ball we were clicking," Tuberville added. "That is about as good eight quarters as I have seen on defense, starting back with the Vanderbilt game. Our guys have really played well and gotten better. Offensively, we are starting to come around and making plays."
Jason Campbell threw every pass on target and hit 12-13 for 173 yards and one touchdown in less than a half of action. The only incompletion was a drop by Courtney Taylor. "The passing game really looked good," Tuberville said.
The coach also liked the work of backup Josh Sullivan, who hit 10-13 passes for 109 yards. The Tigers had no interceptions.
Even without big tackle Marcus McNeill, who the coaches held out of action to rest a sore back, the Tigers rushed for 285 yards on the way to 567 total yards. Offensive line coach Hugh Nall said he was pleased with the work that walk-on Drew Kirk did replacing McNeill in the starting lineup. The offensive coordinator didn't tell Kirk he was going to be the starter until game time so he would not be nervous. "I didn't tell him yesterday because I wanted to make sure he slept well last night," said Nall, who noted that he had originally hoped McNeill would be ready to play by game time.
"I pushed Drew as hard as anybody can be pushed," Nall said. "That is what I told him. We work you like we are working you to give you the preparation for this opportunity. He stepped in and did a great job."
Kevin Hobbs (39) celebrates his interception with freshman linebacker Kevin Sears.
After not scoring a point in the opening quarter in the first three games, Auburn changed that statistic with touchdowns at the 10:06, 6:39 and 2:56 marks of the first period.
Silas Daniels caught a 36-yard pass for the second score. He was wide open in the end zone and Campbell gave his toss plenty of air. "I had beat the guy and I kept wondering when that ball was going to come down," Daniels said with a smile. "It was a great feeling to make the catch."
Carnell Williams, who injured his ankle in the second quarter, did the honors from 29 yards out for the third score to cap a four play drive that covered 47 yards. The Cadillac rushed for 75 yards on eight carries, which was third behind Brown's 89 yards on 11 plays and Brandon Jacobs' total of 103 on 10 carries. Williams had his ankle X-Rayed, but the injury turned out to just be a bruise and he could have returned to the game if needed, he said.
Brown got the first TD of the second quarter with a five-yard run at the 10:38 mark. That capped a seven play drive that covered 61 yards.
Smith got his second TD from a yard out after Jacobs set up the score with a 44-yard burst through the WKU defense.
On the final play of the second quarter, Philip Yost tied the school record for the longest field goal with a 57-yarder that had plenty of room to spare.
The starters called it a day before halftime or else the score could have been even more lopsided. "The Tigers added a third quarter TD on a 19-yard run by Jacobs to cap an eight play drive that covered 69 yards.
"I feel real good about my first 100-yard game (at Auburn)," Jacobs said. "I feel much more better about getting it to the end zone."
In the fourth quarter, each team scored a field goal. WKU could have had a second three-pointer late in the game, but it was blocked by Duckworth.
"Our offense is coming around right now," Campbell said. "We came out focused for this game and our execution was better than it has been. We came off the ball harder and we caught the ball and made plays."
Rosegreen, who returned to his 2002 position of strong safety after playing the first three games at cornerback, said that he was pleased with the effort.
"Our main goal was to go out there and pretty much dominate this team to send a message that Auburn is back," Rosegreen said. "
The Tigers return to conference play when they Tennessee Volunteers travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium next Saturday for a 6:45 p.m. kickoff.