A-Day Turns Into D-Day As Defense Dominates

The defense was impressive during Auburn's annual spring football game.

Auburn, Ala.--On signing day, in February of 2003, when the fax machine sent in Stanley McClover's national letter of intent to the Auburn football coaching staff, there was a celebration.

The reason for jubilation is that the coaches didn't know if McClover was headed for Auburn or Ohio State, but they did know what he could mean to the AU football team if he signed with the Tigers.

On A-Day 2005, the exciting defensive end was the unanimous pick as the spring game defensive MVP as voted on by the media on a day in which the defense didn't allow a touchdown at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

McClover said he and his defensive teammates had a lot of fun on a day in which the first team offense scored only nine points on three field goals to give the Blue team a 9-0 victory over the White team, which featured the first team defense and the second team offense.

"We went out there and tried to turn it on today," McClover said. "I am getting a lot of great coaching from my position coach, Terry Price, and I am working hard to get better. I just thank God for the opportunity I have to play football. It is a lot of fun for me."

Head coach Tommy Tuberville also said he liked what he saw from the defense. On Thursday he said that McClover and Quentin Groves, who have been dominating all spring at end, would probably play just briefly. However, the coaching staff made the decision on Friday to play both extensively because neither one was a starter last season. Each displayed their pass rushing skills as a crowd listed as 35,006 watched the spring game. Groves had one sack and numerous pressures.

"I am not one of those guys who likes to sit on the bench so I am glad that I got to play so much," said McClover, who also had four sacks in Thursday's practice in the 11 on 11 team work.

The play of the defense was even more impressive on Saturday considering that all three starting linebackers were held out with injuries as well as the top two noseguards, Tommy Jackson and Josh Thompson.

"The offense not scoring a touchdown today was surprising to me," McClover said. "Offense usually does pretty well in the spring games."

Despite not getting the ball into the end zone for six points, the offense had some good moments. Brandon Cox, the A-Day Offensive MVP, hit 13-22 passes for 226 yards and no interceptions. He did most of his damage in the first two quarters.

Tailback Kenny Irons carried the ball 11 times for 47 yards for the White team and 7-26 for the Blue and won praise from Tuberville, who liked what he saw from the starting quarterback.

"Offensively, I thought Brandon Cox made some good decisions and threw the ball well," Tuberville said. "We will have to wait and see and look at the film to see how good a decision he made before the snap. I was real pleased with his presence--how he handled himself on the sidelines and in the huddle. The communications stuff was all good."

The Tigers still have two more practices remaining, with a Tuesday workout followed by a scrimmage on Wednesday.

"We were really very basic today on offense," noted wide receiver Courtney Taylor. "On Wednesday when we scrimmage again we will do a lot more things on offense, but the coaches didn't want to show much today." (Saturday's game was regionally televised.)

Cox agreed, saying, "We didn't show a lot of things in the A-Day game. Overall, I was fairly pleased with the way I threw the ball. There were a couple of passes I could have thrown better though."

Brandon Cox passed for 226 yards.

Calvin Booker, who shared White team QB duties with Blake Field, was 4-12 passing for 84 yards. A big chunk came on a 57-yarder at the end of the game to walk-on Charles Olatunji. Field was 2-2 for eight yards. He was questionable to play due to a shoulder injury.

Tre Smith has been running number one at tailback, but didn't have a big day on Saturday. He lost a fumble and netted 33 yards on six carries.

Carl Stewart ran 10 times for 36 yards for the Blue and three for five yards for the White.

Kevis Burnam was a busy man at middle linebacker, making 10 stops, including six solos, to lead all tacklers. Fellow White team linebacker Karibi Dede was next with six stops. McClover, safety Eric Brock and noseguard Tez Doolittle made five tackles apiece the White team.

Walk-on defensive lineman Nathan Farrow, who had an impressive practice on Thursday, continued the theme with four stops to lead he blue defense. Safety Tristan Davis, end Octavius Balkcom and tackle Neil Brown had three tackles apiece.

The Blue team scored on its first possession after winning the toss and getting the ball on its own 30-yard line.

The offense moved the ball immediately, but a sack by McClover helped stop the threat. John Vaughn kicked a 46-yard field goal, with plenty of room to spare. The biggest gainer on the drive was a 22-yard pass to tight end Cooper Wallace. Taylor caught a 15-yard pass from Cox.

Booker got a chance to show what he could do with the White offense and he led the group to a first down on eight and five yard runs by tailback Irons, but that was it for the possession.

Following a punt, the Blue team took over at its 15 and kept the ball for 12 plays before settling for a 22-yard field goal by Vaughn. The big plays on the possession were all passes. Taylor had a 30-yard gainer, Anthony Mix gained 17 and Ben Obomanu had a 14-yard pass reception.

The White team moved into scoring position on its second possession, but came up empty when Vaughn was wide on a 45-yard field goal early in the second quarter. The big play was a pass in the flat to Irons that turned into a 15-yard gain.

On the third White possession, Field was at quarterback. Three running plays didn't produce a first down. A 62-yard Kody Bliss punt backed the Blue up to its six-yard line.

On the fourth Blue possession, the defense forced its first three and out vs. the number one offense. The White then had a three and out, again with Field at QB.

The Blue, starting at its own six-yard line, got the ball off the goal line with a 10-yard pass to Taylor, but two McClover sacks ended that possession.

The White was back for another three and out with Field at QB. The Blue got the ball back with just 36 seconds left in the half at its own 20. Cox managed to throw five passes before intermission, including a 44-yarder to walk-on Maurice Anderson on the final play of the half as the receiver fell out of bounds while making the catch.

At halftime, the Blue had a 206-74 edge in total yardage and the only six points of the game. Cox hit 11-17 passes for 212 yards in the half. He only threw five passes in the second half.

There was no scoring in the third period and just a field goal in the fourth quarter that was shortened with a running clock midway through the period.

Field was the QB for the White on the first two series of the third quarter when the offense went three and out. Cox was the QB the whole way for the Blue. He was in for the only two first downs of the third quarter.

The Blue's second possession of the third period looked promising, but Smith lost a fumble on a reverse run at the White 29.

On the next possession, the Blue scored with 6:16 left in the fourth quarter as Vaughn made a 46-yard field goal. The clock then ran continuously, giving enough time for just one more possession for the White team.

A fourth and eight pass for 57 yards from Booker to wideout Olatujuni gave the White a first and 10 at the Blue 11, but a sack by defensive end Kyle Derozan on third down and an incomplete pass on fourth down ended the threat.

"We would have liked to have scored a few more points, but we knew we were going to have a tough time blocking those two guys (McClover, Groves) coming off the corner," Tuberville said. "The running game looked pretty good. We made some progress. We didn't run it very much today, but it was a good day. I think when all is said and done and we look at the film we are going to be pretty pleased with both sides."

Spring Game Notes: Wideout Devin Aromashodu injured his clavicle trying to catch a bomb from Cox. He is out for the rest of the spring, but the injury is not serious, Tuberville said...John Vaughn, who was 3-4 on field goals, was voted special teams MVP...The Blue team outgained the White 289-134 and averaged 5.8 yards per play vs. 3.7 for the White...No punt returns were allowed. Kody Bliss did all of the punting and averaged 45.2 for the White and 44.3 for the Blue, but did not have good hang time much of the day...Anthony Campbell was the deep man for the punt returns...In pre-game ceremonies, Ronnie Brown (2004 offensive MVP) and Jason Campbell (Shug Jordan Award as 2004 top senior) received long and loud ovations from the crowd.

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