Some positives, but Auburn too much for Cougs

WASHINGTON STATE LED after the first quarter and briefly turned the momentum crimson in the third quarter courtesy of backup quarterback Gary Rogers, but the No. 4 team in the nation was not to be denied Saturday at muggy Jordan-Hare Stadium as Auburn defeated the Cougars 40-14.

The teams' first-ever meeting was supposed to feature split end Jason Hill, who caught 62 passes for 1,097 yards and a school-record 13 touchdowns last season. He was projected as a high draft pick, but he chose to return for his senior year as the favorite target of quarterback Alex Brink, who passed for 2,891 yards and 24 touchdowns.

But the Auburn defense limited Hill to 15 yards on four receptions, though one of those catches was 2-yard touchdown. Brink, who suffered from tonsillitis and sore throat earlier in the week, went 11-for-23 with 63 yards, the one touchdown to Hill and an interception.

Wide receiver Michael Bumpus was held to 37 yards on six receptions.

The Cougars' most impressive performance came from sophomore backup quarterback Gary Rogers, who orchestrated the Cougars third-quarter, 90-yard scoring drive by going 5-for-5 to four different receivers to pull the Cougars within 12 points.

Auburn 40, Cougars 14
AT A GLANCE
TELLING STATS:
The Cougars went 3-and-out five times. And in 12 total possessions they never started a drive any father than their own 28.

COUGAR MVP:
Rookie punter Darryl Blunt booted the ball high and averaged 44.9 yards per kick on seven tries. His longesr was 64 yards. He also pulled down a wild snap in the fourth quarter and raced 38 yards with the ball.

AUBURN MVP:
RB Kenny Irons, 184 yards and one TD on 21 carries, plus three catches for 40 yards.

COUGAR GRITTY EFFORT AWARD:
Defensive tackle Aaron Johnson (two sacks).

COUGAR BRIGHT SPOTS:
RB DeMaundray Woolridge rushed for 82 first-half yards before leaving the game with a thigh bruise; the Cougars were flagged for only two penalties; the Cougars committed only one turnover; QB Gary Rogers completed five straight passes in the third quarter covering 90 yards. Click here for listings.

MOST INTERESTING DISPARITY:
Auburn averaged 7.1 yards per pass, WSU 3.9

NEXT UP:
The Cougars play Idaho, a 24-17 loser to Michigan State today, next Saturday at Martin Stadium. Kickoff is at 12:45.

On the opening play, Brink was sacked by Auburn senior linebacker Karibi Dede and on the ensuing third down, Brink was sacked again for a loss of six. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, who coached under former Cougar coach Dennis Erickson at Miami, told ESPN2 the current Auburn defense is as fast as any defense he's coached.

On Auburn's first play from scrimmage, Kenny Irons broke loose for 41 yards. Safety Eric Frampton saved a touchdown with a tackle in the red zone, and the Tigers couldn't earn another first down on the drive. John Vaughn – who was 10 of 16 from inside the 30 – put Auburn on the board first, scoring a field goal with 11:16 remaining in the first quarter.

Heisman candidate Kenny Irons led the SEC last year with 1,293 rushing yards. Irons finished with finished with 184 rushing yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. He also had 38 yards on three receptions.

Brink's 139.96 pass efficiency was 26th in NCAA, but he was sacked again on the first play of the Cougars second drive, which led to third and 16 after an incompletion.

Junior running back Derrell Hutsona ran that less than a foot to first down on Auburn's safety blitz, but coach Bill Doba didn't risk a turnover on fourth and inches.

Facing third down, Brandon Cox – who led Auburn to nine wins last season – ran for a first down with Mkristo Bruce chasing, keeping the Auburn drive alive with a 14-yad gain. The Cougars forced third and three, and got a break when junior wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez dropped a pass that would have given Auburn the first down.

Auburn's scoring drive ended with John Vaughn's 44-yard field goal – a career best for Vaughn.

On the first play of the Cougar's third series, Brink connected with flanker Chris Jordan on a curl route for a 12-yard gain, and the pair connected again on third down to set up first and 10 on the Cougar 43. A Washington State chop block penalty was nullified by an Auburn pass interference penalty, which repeated second down.

Facing first and 10 on the Auburn 44, DeMaundray Woodridge, who had a 60 yard touchdown run in a summer scrimmage, broke a 42-yard run right, which gave Cougars first and goal on the two. Hill's first catch tied the game at 6, and Loren Langley's kick with 2;09 remaining, put the Cougars ahead 7-6.

Washington State's first scoring drive covered 80 yards in nine plays.

Brink was limited to 6 passing yards in the first quarter, as the cougars gained 64 net yards to the Tigers 117.

The Cougars stopped an Auburn drive that covered 52 yards in six plays, but Vaughn gave Auburn the lead by setting another career mark, booting a 52 yard field goal on fourth and four.

Woodridge answered with an 11 yard gain from the Cougars' 23, but two consecutive losses and an incomplete pass forced Washington State to punt on fourth and 15.

Auburn followed with a backbreaking play, hitting a streaking Rodgeriqus Smith for a 42 yard gain. Irons broke two tackles on third and eight for a 14 yard gain that put Auburn on the Washington State 13. Preseason All-American Mkristo Bruce stopped Auburn wide receiver Courtney Taylor on first down and linebacker Scott Davis sacked Cox that led to a 31-yard Vaughn field goal, which gave Auburn a 12-7 lead with 7:37 remaining in the first half.

After four straight plays, Cougar punter Darryl Blunt booted his fourth kick 32 yards that gave Auburn first down on the Cougar 46 after a two yard return. It took the Tigers only three plays to score their first touchdown on a 36 run to the right end zone by Brad Lester. A Vaughn extra point ended Auburn's lead to 19-7 with 5:30 remaining.

Woolridge limped off the field with Cougar trainers, complaining about pain above his right knee, after a head tackle by strong safety Tristan Davis, who also required trainer attention after the hit. Woodridge, who had 83 yards on 11 carries in the first half, watched the second half with crutches on the sidelines because of a deep thigh bruise.

The first half ended with Auburn ahead 19-7.

First-year Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, formerly with the Miami Dolphins, limited Washington State to 86 net yards in the first half, ending five of six drives with punts averaging 42.8 yards. The Tigers netted 226 first half yards and had 95 net first-half passing yards to the Cougars 7, with 20 yards lost on three Brink sacks.

Brink was 6-for-10 for 27 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Cox went 7-for-12 with 106 yards. Woodridge's 83 yards led the Cougars. Irons led Auburn with 12 carries for 70 yards. Hill's only reception was the 2-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.

"Our defense was fighting their tails off," Doba told ESPN2 before the start of the third quarter. "We've got to focus on tacking Kenny Irons. We've got to move the football."

But Irons showed why so many teams have trouble tackling him on Auburn's first play of the third quarter, breaking a rush right for a 58 yard touchdown. Another Vaughn extra point made it 26-7 Auburn, and the Cougars punted on their ensuing drive, despite a 16-yard gain by wide receiver Michael Bumpus.

Washington State took Auburn's second punt on their own 10-yard line with 9:14 remaining in the third quarter. Brink stayed on the sidelines, giving Rogers the leading role in front of more than 87,500 fans. The last of Rogers' five completions found tight end Cody Boyd wide open at midfield for a 50-yard touchdown reception. Langley's extra point cut Auburn's lead to 26-14 and sparked a short-lived Cougar comeback.

The Cougar defense, led by coordinator Robb Akey, stopped a nine play Auburn drive that ended with Vaughn's only missed field goal on a 37-yard attempt. But Brink and the Cougars could not score on their ensuing drive, and a 13-yard touchdown run by Lester and Vaughn extra point made it 32-14 Auburn.

With 8:44 remaining, Auburn senior linebacker Will Herring picked Brink's only interception, which led to a 1-yard Carl Stewart scoring run and a 40-14 Auburn advantage.

Washington State netted 232 yards (115 rushing, 117 passing) to Auburn's 463 (322 rushing, 141 passing), had only two penalties for 20 yards, but only made three of 13 third-down conversions.

The win made Tuberville 38-0 in games where his team scored 30 or more points.

The Cougars' most notable opening day win in the modern era was a 19-10 upset at Nebraska in 1977. Saturday's loss to Auburn puts the Cougars at 1-6 lifetime against Southeastern Conference teams and 4-29 all-time against teams ranked in the top 5 nationally at kickoff. The Cougars' last win against a top 5 team was a 28-20 win against Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl.

Washington State has its first home game next week with a 12:45 p.m. kickoff against the Erickson-led Idaho Vandals.


AUBURN'S QUINTIN GROVE TAKING DOWN ALEX BRINK

SCORING RECAP

1st Quarter:
AUB: John Vaughn kicked a 32-yard field goal, 0-3
AUB: Vaughn kicked a 44-yard field goal, 0-6
WSU: Alex Brink passed to Jason Hill down the middle for 2 yard gain (Loren Langley made PAT), 7-6

2nd Quarter:
AUB: Vaughn kicked a 52-yard field goal, 7-9
AUB: Vaughn kicked a 31-yard field goal, 7-12
AUB: Brad Lester rushed up the middle for 36 yard gain (Vaughn made PAT), 7-19

3rd Quarter:
AUB: Kenny Irons rushed right for 58 yard gain (Vaughn made PAT), 7-26
WSU: Gary Rogers passed to Cody Boyd on the right for 50 yard gain (Loren Langley made PAT), 14–26

4th Quarter:
AUB: Lester rushed left for 13 yard gain (Vaughn made PAT), 14-33
AUB: Carl Stewart rushed up the middle for 1 yard gain (Vaughn made PAT), 14-40

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