AUBURN, Ala. – Not everybody gave up on Auburn before the final whistle.
Few boos were rained down on the Tigers as they departed Pat Dye Field following their 24-7 loss to Arkansas Saturday. One front-row supporter quickly wrote on his whiteboard, ‘Tigers, Stay Proud … All In” and held it over his head for players and coaches to see on their way into the locker room.
However, above a few hundred loyal fans voicing their final cheers in the south stands, a panoramic view of Jordan-Hare Stadium midway through the fourth quarter – when the outcome wasn’t necessarily out of doubt at 17-7 – would show a healthy dose of bleachers vacated by annoyed fans looking to beat the traffic.
“I didn’t see fans leave, but I don’t blame them,” head coach Gene Chizik said in his postgame press conference, after he had apologized to the Auburn family. “I don’t look in the stands, so I don’t know about all of that.”
Quarterback Kiehl Frazier also pled ignorance to the fan exodus, which began with 11 minutes remaining after running back Mike Blakely fumbled near midfield. It continued in droves when Razorbacks tailback Dennis Johnson scored from 2 yards out for a 17-point lead with 8:20 left on a warm October day.
“We don’t have a reaction to that. The fans, whenever they come and cheer for us … whenever they’re with us, we’re with them,” Frazier said. “When they’re leaving, we’re not worried about that. We’re worried about playing our game.”
While negative talk will perpetuate after the Tigers’ fourth loss in five games to open the season, Frazier said Auburn needs no more compulsion than what the team puts on itself.
“We’re going to come together and be a family. We’re not going to worry about all the outside stuff,” Frazier said. “Losing makes us sick personally, so we don’t have to feel sick because of everybody else.”
A hand for Prosch
The crowd of 85,813 did provide a nice round of applause from the crowd for junior fullback Jay Prosch upon his first carry in an Auburn uniform, going for three yards. Prosch lost his mother to brain cancer on Sept. 2, and transferred to Auburn last winter to be closer to his family.
In two years at Illinois, Prosch ran twice for nine yards.
True freshman Jonathan Wallace played his second career game leading Auburn’s change-it-up Wildcat look, but just saw two snaps, and kept the ball both times for a total of 11 yards.
For the second straight game, an Auburn offensive lineman jumped early upon Wallace’s first appearance on the field. Center Reese Dismukes’s false start pushed the Tigers back five yards, but Wallace picked them back up with a 7-yard gain.
“When things aren’t going good, we have to rally together,” said Wallace, a Central-Phenix City product. “I really believe we’re going to get there.”
Tale of two Tigers
Nova always creates a stir on gameday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but Auburn’s beloved eagle isn’t the only animal making an appearance Saturday against Arkansas.
Twin tiger cubs – Ceylon, a male, and Fatima, a female – prowled the Tigers’ sideline during warmups, visiting from the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores, Ala. Just 13 weeks old, but about as big as a medium-sized dog, Ceylon and Fatima graciously posed for pictures with fans on the sideline, and were brought to midfield for a quick pregame announcement of their presence, which drew loud applause from the crowd filling in to the bleachers.
Though Ceylon and Fatima posed a tough act to follow, the Amazin’s did their best, as members of Auburn’s 1972 team were then recognized during pregame ceremonies.
From the infirmary
Junior cornerback Chris Davis was looked at by the training staff twice after making tackles, and was ruled out for the second half with a head injury.
Junior kicker Cody Parkey’s quest for perfection is over.
He missed from 49 yards out with 2:35 remaining in the first half following Arkansas’ fourth sack of Kiehl Frazier. Parkey had nailed nine in a row going back to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl last Dec. 31, but his career long remains 46 yards against Clemson in the season opener.
Game captains were linebacker Daren Bates, defensive end Corey Lemonier, running back Onterio McCalebb and wide receiver Emory Blake.
It was Lemonier’s first naming as a captain this year, and the first game cornerback T’Sharvan Bell was not among the group. Bell has lost his starting job on the defense, but recovered a fumble when Arkansas punt returner Keante Minor dropped a punt.
Bates is now the only Tiger who has served as captain in every game.