The Tony Franklin Era at Auburn was expected to begin with “shock and awe” — offensive fireworks produced by the new offensive coordinator’s spread offense.
But the Tigers proved that a good ground attack and rock-solid defense can serve the purpose Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium, as Auburn rode its running game and defense to a 34-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe.
Tiger running back Ben Tate rushed for 115 yards and Kodi Burns, who started the game for Auburn, added 69 yards rushing before leaving the game in the third quarter with a cut on his leg.
“We knew we could run the ball,” Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville. “We played pretty good defense. If the defense and special teams play well, you can win ball games. We need more consistency with the throwing game.”
The Auburn passing game especially was expected to be transformed with its variety of short, controlled passing mixed with the run.
But the Tigers passing game never materialized.
“The offense stunk, and it’s my fault,” Franklin said. “I saw it coming three days ago. There’s a lot of blame to go around, and, if it’s anyone’s fault, it’s mine.”
Auburn managed only 24 yards in the air in the first half as neither Burns nor Todd could generate a passing attack.
The Tigers’ final passing numbers were 85 yards on 13-of-27 passing with one interception and a touchdown.
“I’ve had a lot of ugly games in my life and a lot of ugly halves. This was an ugly half,” Franklin said. “We played a little better in the second half, but the defense played lights out. Hats off to them.”
ULM had a little success moving the ball early in the game, but Auburn’s defense kept the Warhawks off the scoreboard.
ULM coach Charlie Weatherbee said he felt the Warhawks gave the Tigers 21 of their 34 points with turnovers and special-team mistakes.
The Tigers took a 17-0 lead into the locker room because of big plays by the defense and special teams.
Auburn’s defense and special teams both out-scored the highly-anticipated new offense as it failed to develop a rhythm or sustain a drive against the suspect ULM defense.
The Tigers generated only 150 yards total offense during the half.
Burns and Todd alternated possessions during the half, but neither could ignite the spread passing game.
Burns finished the half with four completions in eight attempts for a meager 15 yards, while Todd had only two completions in seven attempts for nine yards.
The running game was better, with Ben Tate running for 74 first-half yards. He fueled the offense’s only scoring drive of the first half, culminating in Wes Byrum’s 33-yard field goal with 1:16 left in the second quarter.
By then, both the defense and special teams already had scored touchdowns.
The defense scored Auburn’s first touchdown on ULM’s first possession.
Tiger defensive end Antonio Coleman blindsided Warhawk quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster and forced a fumble that fellow defensive end Michael Goggans picked up and returned nine yards for the score. Byrum’s kick gave Auburn a 7-0 lead with 12:08 left in the quarter.