Slingin' In the Rain: Todd's TDs Lead Tigers

Chris Todd threw five touchdown passes as Auburn stayed unbeaten with a 54-30 victory over Ball State.

Auburn, Ala.--Following the script from previous games, Auburn fell behind early before turning up the pressure offensively and defensively to pull away for a victory on Saturday night to improve to 4-0 with a 54-30 decision over Ball State.

At rain-soaked Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Tigers overcame a sluggish start as senior quarterback Chris Todd tied Daniel Cobb's single-game school record with five touchdown passes.

As a team the Tigers broke the 40-point mark for a third straight game, something no other Auburn team has ever accomplished. The Tigers also continued their streak of scoring in every quarter this season.

The second quarter was the big one for Coach Gene Chizik's Tigers as they scored 23 points in a stretch of five minutes and 33 seconds and scored 26 in the period to take command of the game with a 33-10 halftime lead.

Todd didn't let the wet conditions affect his passing as he completed 19-26 throws for 287 yards. He threw two touchdowns to Terrell Zachery and one apiece to Darvin Adams, Mario Fannin and Tommy Trott.

"We didn't really know what to expect on how the rain was going to affect what we were doing, but I think the practices we had the week before throwing in the rain prepared us for the rain tonight," Todd said.

The senior quarterback directed an offense that finished with 560 yards, including 254 on the ground. "They really tried to come down and stop our running and it opened up some stuff in the passing game," Todd said. "We had some guys who ran some good routes, got themselves open and the line was doing a good job."

With Kodi Burns going out early with a thigh bruise, Todd got most of the snaps until the fourth quarter when Neil Caudle finished the game.

Caudle got off to a slow start throwing an interception, but he followed that with his first college touchdown on a 52-yard run in the fourth quarter. "It was good to get that first touchdown out of the way," the redshirt junior said. "It feels like I have been here forever so it felt great to get that touchdown. I felt like I needed to do something to make up for that interception.

"Chris played a phenomenal game and he has been playing well week in and week out," Caudle said. "Five touchdowns, even against a subpar team like that, is a real good game. He made good reads and good throws all night."

Chizik wouldn't say if the Tigers improved, stayed the same or regressed in game four, but he did note his team was inconsistent. "We have a lot of work to be able to win the month of October," he said.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said he saw some good things with the first defense, but noted the backups were not nearly as consistent on a night the Tigers gave up 254 total yards.

"I thought with our first unit, we tackled well," Roof said. "I thought we played really, really good in the first half. I was a little disappointed with the first drive of the second quarter. I think they went out there some times with their backs against the wall and for the most part they did a good job.

"We have got to finish some things, but it was a good opportunity to play some young guys to make sure we are going to stay healthy as we move forward to going to Knoxville next week," Roof said.

"I think the young players have got to understand how close they are to playing and we have to keep working to get better in that area," Roof added.

Onterio McCalebb led the Tigers in rushing with 86 yards on eight carries, but left the game early with an ankle injury. Chizik said he didn't know how serious the injury is, but McCalebb said after the game he should be ready to go vs. Tennessee as did Burns, who played just briefly in the first quarter.

Auburn's kicking game, which has been inconsistent this season, was the reason the Tigers found themselves behind 7-0 early. The Cardinals only had to move the football 18 yards to score after Anthony Gulley fumbled a punt after the Cardinals won the toss, took the football and went three-and-out in a steady rain.

Four plays later, MiQuale Lewis raced around right end, beating Walt McFadden to the corner for six points.

The offense got off to a slow start, too. After gaining a first down on its initial possession, the Tigers turned the ball over on downs on fourth and less than a yard to go at their own 47. McCalebb was stuffed for a half-yard loss when he tried to run at right end.

The defense made Auburn's first big play of the game when on fourth down and one from the Auburn 37 quarterback Kelly Page hit Zane Fakes for a pass in the flat for a first down, but Zac Etheridge made the tackle, stripped the football and got on the spinning pigskin before it could roll out of bounds.

Auburn couldn't move the ball, but tied the game on its next possession after the defense again came up with a big play. Page was hit by Craig Stevens and Daren Bates, who knocked the ball loose and it was recovered by Josh Bynes at the Ball State 29.

It took the Tigers just four plays to score from there. On second and 10, Todd hit Darvin Adams for 18 yards and two plays later tight end Tommy Trott got down low in the back of the end zone and cradled a pass with 2:53 left in the opening quarter.

The next quarter was much more productive for the Tigers, who outscored the visitors from the Mid-American Conference 26-3 in the next 15 minutes by scoring three touchdowns, a safety and a field goal.

The Tigers took the lead on a 46-yard pass from Todd to Zachery, who caught a ball on a short toss to the sideline, used a block from Jay Wisner and hit the jets on his way to the end zone. That capped a drive that covered 78 yards in six plays while taking just 1:50 off the clock.

Auburn scored again less than a minute later at the 12:53 mark when Bynes tackled BSU star Lewis on a draw play on second down and 15 from the three. The Cardinals were backed up by an illegal block on the kickoff and a first down play in which Zach Clayton made a tackle on Lewis five yards behind the line of scrimmage.

The Tigers scored again 33 seconds later as McCalebb raced 62 yards to the BSU on the first play after the safety and scored at right guard on the next one to put the Tigers on top 23-7.

Terrell Zachery makes a touchdown catch.

Todd and Zachery hooked up on another big play the next time the Tigers got the ball. A perfectly thrown fly route was executed for a 65-yard gainer to finish a drive that covered 77 yards in just three plays.

Each team added a field goal before intermission. BSU's was a gift from the Tigers on a strange call by Chizik, who tried a fake from punt formation on fourth and 11 from their own 33. Not only was McCalebb stuffed for no gain, he was helped off the field with an ankle injury.

Auburn got the ball back at its 36 with 2:35. Like it did the previous three weeks, the hurry-up offense produced points as Byrum made a 32-yard field goal on fourth down and one at the BSU 15 with seven seconds left in a second quarter in which the Tigers outgained Ball State 245-41.

Todd's first half numbers were impressive as he hit 15-18 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns. Zachery caught four passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns before the break.

Auburn scored early in the third quarter on a 26-yard TD pass to Adams to complete a drive that covered 76 yards in 10 plays.

Mario Fannin heads to the end zone for another Auburn touchdown.

Ball State responded with its best drive of the game going 76 yards in 10 plays, but Auburn quickly matched that in four plays as Fannin caught a swing pass and raced 36 yards for a TD. That put the Tigers on top 47-17 going into the final quarter.

The Cardinals, who fell to 0-4, scored 13 points on the Auburn subs while Caudle got the only points for the Tigers on his QB keeper.


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