"I thought they tried hard," the Bulldogs' head coach said of his players. "You know what your team is capable of and you know what a good effort is and I thought they gave a good effort out there today. I thought there were times when they made some good plays and there were times when the skill level might have been apparent. For the most part I felt like the guys gave a really good effort."
Saturday's game was the first meeting in football between the Tigers and Bulldogs, who are a Division I-AA team from The Southern Conference.
"They really work hard to do what they're coached to do and I'm proud of them," Zernhelt added. "I thought they never quit and they played hard."
The Citadel's season opener against Charleston Southern was postponed due to Hurricane Frances. The Bulldogs didn't play their first game of the season until last week, a 28-14 loss at Appalachian State. Despite having only played one game, compared to three for Auburn, Zernhelt said that difference didn't play a factor in the game.
"I don't know how big of a disadvantage it was," he said. "For the most part, any kinks that we had, we got that out last week. Whether it was a disadvantage, I don't think it was."
Redshirt freshman Carl Stewart runs for the Tigers vs. The Citadel.
Auburn sophomore free safety Will Herring came up with an interception on the first play of the game, but a Carnell Williams fumble four plays later gave the ball back to The Citadel. Forty-seven of the Bulldogs' 169 yards came on the next drive, mostly behind the legs of Nehemiah Broughton, a 6-0, 240-pound senior tailback. Broughton finished the first quarter with 42 yards rushing.
"I thought (Broughton) showed a lot of what he's capable of," Zernhelt said. "He's a physical guy. I think he could start for an awful lot of teams in the country. He's a good running back and he certainly showed it at times."
Broughton finished the day with 73 yards on 19 carries.
At quarterback for the Bulldogs, senior Justin Hardin played mostly the first and third quarters, and freshman Duran Lawson played mostly the second and fourth quarters.
"Duran Lawson is a young freshman quarterback that shows a lot of promise, and it's a way for us to get him into the game little by little," Zernhelt said. "We think he has a bright future with us. It's just a way for us to get him into the game.
"I think (playing against Auburn) was great for Duran," the coach added. "The more he can get into games, the more he can be a productive player for us. I was happy to see him have a chance to get in there."
Zernhelt said that the biggest differences in playing an SEC school compared to a Division I-AA opponent is the crowd and atmosphere, and a few standout players like Carnell Williams and the Auburn receivers. He also said that playing against Auburn early in the year should help his team throughout the season.
"This game helped us for three reasons," Zernhelt said. "One, the mental preparation that it takes to come down and play a team like Auburn. Two, the fact that you get out and try to execute your plan and three, just to see what kind of results you had and how much further you have to go and if you're on the right track to being a good football team."
Zernhelt said the Bulldogs brought 62 players to the contest and noted around 50 saw action vs. the Tigers.