"Man, that was fun," said noseguard T.J. Jackson, a rookie from nearby Opelika High School. "When the offense had the ball, I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next. When the defense was on the field, we were having a lot of fun and making things happen."
One thing that did not happen was the visiting team crossing the goal line. Jackson was in for a second fourth down stand in the fourth quarter on one of WCU's two serious scoring threats. The Catamounts, already down 28-0 just before halftime, reached the Tiger nine-yard line before stalling there on their deepest penetration.
"That game was just what the doctor ordered," were Tommy Tuberville's opening words in his postgame press conference. "We played well even though we had them overmatched. I thought we looked good on both sides of the ball."
Freshman receiver Benjamin Obomanu can't hang on to a potential touchdown pass vs. Western Carolina.
The Tigers played 21 freshmen and redshirt freshmen and many of them were on the field early in the game as Auburn improved its football record to 1-1 while Western Carolina fell to 0-1. Two rookies, offensive guard Troy Reddick and wide receiver Montae Pitts, got their first college starts. In all, 68 different players got on the field even though Tuberville held out starters Jay Ratliff, Dontarrious Thomas, Reggie Torbor and Ben Nowland to help them recover from injuries suffered in the opener at USC. All could have played if needed, but Auburn had more than enough firepower for the Division I-AA team out of the Southern Conference.
Carnell Williams is on the way to the end zone. He carried the ball four times for 67 yards and two touchdowns.
Offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino was smiling after watching his team rack up 621 yards of total offense even though head man Tuberville called off the Tigers early by substituting heavily in both the first and second halves. "I wish we could have passed the ball more, but other than that I was pleased with the way things went," said Petrino.
The Tigers scored so quickly and were doing so well with the running game, passing wasn't really necessary. Nine Tigers ran for a total of six touchdowns and 345 yards at an impressive seven yards per carry.
The passing wasn't too shabby, either. Starter Daniel Cobb, playing less than half the game, hit 9-16 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown to tight end Lorenzo Diamond. Jason Campbell was sharp as he hit 12-14 passes for 147 yards with one touchdown to tight end Cooper Wallace.
"Both quarterbacks looked good, but I think Jason was a little better percentage-wise," Tuberville said. "We need to get both guys to the same level of play. We are only going to have one quarterback, but this game gives Jayson the confidence he will need to come off the bench at any time."
Campbell said the big offensive night was just what his team needed. "We came out with the goal of playing hard for four quarters and getting better as a team and I think we did that."
Cobb agreed and added, "We executed well on offense and defense and had a great game. This is definitely the type of game we needed."
When the final count was in, the Tigers had 621 yards of total offense to 261 for the visitors from Cullowee, N.C. Auburn's total was the sixth highest yardage figure in school history and 74 off the record set vs. Southwestern Louisiana in 1985.
After winning the toss and electing to take the ball in the second half the Tigers struck quickly after allowing the Catamounts to convert their initial first down of the evening.
On the opening play, foreshadowing the theme of the evening, true freshman Montae Pitts carried the ball on the opening play on a reverse. WCU had a chance to stop the play for the loss but Pitts, who did not play in the opener, raced 15 yards.
Another true freshman, tailback Tre Smith, ran for 10 more on the second down with blocks for true freshman Troy Reddick and redshirt freshman freshman Taylor Bourgeois, who were making their first starts.
Four plays later, a not-so-grizzled veteran, sophomore Carnell Williams, raced 20 yards through a nice hole on the left side of the line to give the Tigers a 7-0 edge. The drive covered 67 yards and took just two minutes and 10 seconds.
WCU was three and out on possession two, but Auburn couldn't score this time when Damon Duval missed a field goal wide left from 41 yards.
After another three and out, Auburn scored even more quickly than on the first drive. Following a 19-yard punt return by Roderick Hood that started the Tigers at midfield, Cobb hit Silas Daniels for eight yards on a pass play. On the next play, Williams found another big hole on the left side and burst through for a 42-yard touchdown run to put Auburn up 14-0 with 5:51 left in the opening quarter.
Following a third straight three and out, Auburn drove for its third touchdown. Freshman wide receiver Anthony Mix got the drive started with a 23-yard pass reception over the middle from Cobb.
Ronnie Brown takes it in for a touchdown.
Backup tailback Ronnie Brown completed the drive with three consecutive runs through the middle of the Catamount defense for 10, seven and seven yards. The six-play drive covered 58 yards and gave the Tigers a 21-0 lead with 1:07 left in the first quarter.
The heavy substitution pattern, which began in the first quarter, was extended to the quarterback spot in the second quarter when Campbell got the call and he played the entire period. With Campbell in charge, the Tigers had to punt for the first time after gaining one first down.
On Campbell's second series, it took just one play to score following a 30-yard punt return by Hood that the put the Tigers in business at the WCU 17 after a strong defensive stand by the Tigers. Running a bootleg pass to perfection, Campbell passed the football to redshirt freshman Cooper Wallace, who ran over the last defender just in front of the goal line and sailed into the end zone for a 28-0 Auburn lead.
Both teams had scoring opportunities later in the period but that ended the scoring. WCU had a drive stall at the Tiger nine-yard line on downs when Karlos Dansby's outside pass rush foiled a fourth down and three call by the visitors.
Campbell then got a chance to show what he could do with the two-minute offense. With just 1:29 in the half and all three timeouts remaining, Campbell drove the Tigers into field goal range, but Duval was wide on a 43-yarder on the last play before intermission.
At the break, Auburn had totaled 335 yards with 156 on the ground and 179 passing. The visitors had 154 yards with just 20 of it on the ground.
The Tigers opened the second half with an impressive drive, moving 80 yards on 15 plays with Cobb back under center. The senior quarterback hit senior tight end Diamond for a perfectly thrown bootleg pass from 16 yards out. Cobb lofted the ball over the underneath coverage of Dunstan Kendrick, the rover. That put the Tigers ahead 35-0.
With Campbell at quarterback for the second series of the second half the result was the same. The Tigers marched 52 yards on seven plays to take a 42-0 lead. Campbell scored the touchdown on a broken play, scrambling around left end for the score behind the block of tailback Smith.
Tailback Chris Butler got into the scoring act with a 10-yard burst up the middle through a huge hole to cap a four-play, 65-yard drive that put the Tigers at the 511 yard total for three quarters.
Freshman tailback Smith wrapped up the scoring with a nine-yard run around left end to make the score 56-0 with 4:16 to play.
WCU coach Kent Briggs said he was impressed with the Tigers and Auburn's execution. "Our game plan was to move the chains and we did that at times," he said. "However, we had no time to throw the ball. Their rush was great. We moved the ball three or four yards at a time, but it seemed that we were always at fourth and two or fourth and one."
Auburn returns to action next Saturday with Vanderbilt coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium for an 11:30 a.m. game.