The offense didn't exactly overwhelm the visiting Indians although it had some good moments as 80,663 fans came to Jordan-Hare Stadium to check out the Tigers.
"Those guys really played well and made a lot of big hits," noted sophomore safety Will Herring, who picked off a pass, one of three turnovers the defense came up with on the afternoon. "They set the tone by being aggressive."
Williams led the Tigers in tackles with four solos, one assist and forced a fumble. Sears, who had one of the big hits of the day, had three tackles and Williams was strong on his pass coverage and led all tacklers with six stops, including two for losses.
Defensive end Stanley McClover, who made his collegiate debut, says the defense reached its goals of getting a shutout while causing three turnovers. "We still have plenty of work to do, but it was a good start to the season," added the sophomore, who said it felt "great" to finally get into a college game after sitting out last year as a partial academic qualifier.
The turnover on the opening possession of the season caused by Williams helped set the tone for the day when senior safety Junior Rosegreen recovered a fumble to give the offense great field possession at the Indians' 27-yard line.
New offensive coordinator Al Borges decided to give Carnell Williams the ball five straight times and let him run with it and he took Tigers all the way down to a first and goal at the six. Then, following a false start and a two-yard gain by Ronnie Brown, Williams capped the drive by scoring on a nine-yard screen pass for the Tigers to put them up 7-0. The play was executed flawlessly and the Cadillac was not touched on his way into the end zone.
After the defense held the Indians to a three and out on their next drive, Campbell and company took over at the ULM 40-yard line following a short punt after pressure from Donnay Young.
Louisiana-Monroe had some success on its next drive, picking up three first downs and moving into Auburn territory at the Tigers' 49 yard line, but that was where the drive stalled and following a punt Auburn took over at its own 29.
Brandon Cox celebrates his first college touchdown.
Backup quarterback Brandon Cox made his collegiate debut an impressive one on the third Auburn offensive series of the game. He led the Tigers on a 71-yard march that was highlighted by a 39-yard gain on an inside slant route to wide receiver Courtney Taylor.
Cox then capped the scoring drive by carrying the ball into the end zone untouched from 14 yards out after he couldn't find an open receiver to throw to on a pass play designed to go to the left side of the field. There was nobody on the entire right side of the field as Cox strolled in untouched on the play.
On its next drive, Auburn was threatening again as the Tigers moved the ball from their own 22 to the Louisiana-Monroe 23. Led by a big 11-yard catch on third and 10 by Silas Daniels from Campbell and a 20-yard burst over left tackle for Williams, the Tigers were in scoring position.
However, on third and 15 from the 23, Campbell was forced to scramble when he didn't see an open receiver on the right side of the field. As he turned back left he saw Taylor streaking open toward the end zone and tried to make a throw across his body. Backup offensive guard Jonathan Palmer bumped the quarterback as he released the ball. The pass was way too low and picked off by safety Shelton Williams, who was run out of bounds at the Auburn 45 by the AU quarterback.
Monroe tried to take advantage of the miscue and drove the ball deep into Auburn territory, but the defense stopped the drive at the 12-yard line and a 29-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right. The Indians would also miss another field goal try in the fourth quarter.
Auburn started the second half with the ball after winning the opening toss and deferring its decision. The Tigers wasted no time putting seven more points on the scoreboard. Williams stared the drive with an 11-yard burst up the middle.
Next, Campbell completed a 26-yard pass to Aromashodu to move the ball to the Louisiana-Monroe 33-yard line. Then, following a loss of five yards by Williams and a six-yard run from Campbell, the senior quarterback connected with Aromashodu again, this time for a 32-yard touchdown strike to push the lead out to 24-0 with 13:19 remaining in the third quarter.
Auburn's final scoring drive of the day also came in the third quarter as the Tigers moved the ball 70 yards in eight plays to establish what would be the final margin of victory at 31-0.
In the fourth quarter, the Tigers cleared the bench and played reserves. A total of 73 players saw action, head coach Tommy Tuberville noted.
Williams rushed the ball on the first four plays of the drive that started at the Tigers' 30-yard line and pushed it out to the 49. Then, on third and seven from the Louisiana-Monroe 43, Cox completed a 13-yard sideline route to Taylor for a first down. On the next play, Brown burst through a big hole at left tackle, cut to the outside and was not touched on his 30-yard scoring run.
"It was a good start," said Tuberville. "We used a lot of players. I saw a lot of good things, but there are some things we need to work.
"We played with a lot of intensity. We didn't hit on all cylinders on the offense at all times, but it was a steady game. We got the job done. We didn't do anything spectacular. Overall, it was just a good performance. The defense ran around well. The kicking game was outstanding. Monroe was much improved from last year. Their defense was very quick and gave us some problems. We see where we need to work on our blocking, but we got the job done."
Carnell Williams scores on a screen pass.
On the ground, Williams led the way for the Tigers with 103 yards rushing on 23 carries. Brown added 55 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, Taylor had 19 on one reverse, Cox had 14 yards on one carry, freshman tailback Brad Lester added five yards on four carries, freshman tailback Jerald Watson had two yards on a carry and Campbell netted three yards on three carries.
Campbell completed 11-18 passes for 110 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also fumbled when he was blindsided while attempting a bootleg pass. Cox, who played in both halves, was 3-6 passes for 76 yards with no interceptions, no TDs and one rushing touchdown.
Taylor led all receivers with three catches for 55 yards. The sophomore came close to breaking several receptions for big gainers. "I am trying to be physical and turn a short play into a big, one," he says.
Devin Aromashodu, a junior wide receiver, was close behind with two grabs for 53 yards and a score. "The touchdown felt great," he said. "When I saw the ball coming, I wanted to make sure I kept my feet in the end zone and I was able to do that."
Ben Obomanu gained 18 yards on two catches, Anthony Mix had two catches for nine yards, Brown grabbed two for seven yards, Carl Stewart had one catch for 24 yards, Daniels added one for 11 and Williams had one for nine yards and a touchdown.
Auburn gained 380 yards of total offense and was balanced with its passing and rushing totals. The Tigers ran the ball 41 times for 194 yards and passed 24 times for 186 yards. On its 65 total plays, the offense averaged 5.8 yards per play. Auburn totaled 21 first downs on the day, 12 rushing, eight passing and one on a penalty.
The Indians netted 239 yards of total offense and had some success on the ground, but were unable to gain 100 yards through the air as quarterback Steven Jyles seldom challenged the Tigers secondary by throwing deep. Instead, he threw underneath routes that weren't effective at getting the football into the end zone even though he was accurate most of the day. Jyles completed 16-22 passes for 96 yards and gave up one interception to Herring.
Monroe ran the ball 35 times for 140 yards, but was only able to manage 99 yards passing on 17 completions. Monroe had 12 first downs, eight rushing, three passing and one on a penalty.
On the ground Kevin Payne did most of the work for Louisiana-Monroe. The tailback rushed for 58 yards on 12 carries, Josh Jenkins gained 27 on his only carry in garbage time vs. the Tiger third stringers, Mason Denham added 24 yards on nine rushes, Jyles had 16 yards on five carries and Calvin Dawson 15 on five attempts.
Drouzon Quillen led the Indians with five catches for 27 yards. Mitchell Vincent added four grabs for 23 yards, Charles Estes had two for 14, Jason Deml had one for 22 yards and Payne caught one for four yards, Jeremy Hammock had one catch for four yards, Larry Davenport had one catch for three yards and Denham and Josh Hudnall each had one catch for one yard.
Auburn begins SEC play as the Tigers travel to Mississippi State for an 11:30 a.m. JP game next Saturday.