AUBURN, Ala. – Most teams get to start their season with a couple of cupcakes at home. For a reason. You know, get the confidence going and such.
Auburn wasn’t afforded that luxury in 2012 – part its own doing (opening with the made-for-TV Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic against Clemson), part the SEC schedule’s fault (a roadie at upstart Mississippi State).
By the time Jordan-Hare Stadium opened its gates for business, the Tigers were already frustrated and questioning themselves. And making matters more complicated, its first non-BCS opponent was coming off a seismic toppling of Arkansas, knocking the Razorbacks from the top ten to the unranked, and transforming junior quarterback Kolton Browning into the National Player of the Week and a household name.
So how did 0-2 Auburn respond? Pretty well. Just good enough, really.
As always, 2012 years in school and positions are listed for Auburn players. All ULM game photos by Robin Trimarchi, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
AUBURN 31, LOUISIANA-MONROE 28 (OT)
Sept. 15, 2012, SEC NETWORK
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.
- Not the most thrilling way to start this off, but Auburn’s special teams were again spectacular. Junior K Cody Parkey obviously was perfect on the walk-off field goal in overtime, and junior P Steven Clark again netted more than 40 yards on six punts, but the kick return coverage was particularly breathtaking. Freshman Ricardo Louis had two first-quarter tackles deep in ULM territory, and freshman Joshua Holsey added another in the second quarter. The Warhawks’ start position on their first three kick returns: their own 11, 15 and 7-yard-line. Tremendous work by a couple of rookies.
- Second quarter, 4th and 1 on his own 21, Clark thumps a 51-yard bouncer. No return. Ho-hum.
- Overall, the Tigers’ tackling was sharper. Junior DT Jeff Whitaker had a nice goal-line wrap, beating right guard Jonathan Gill for a stop.
- Junior SS Trent Fisher, getting the start over junior Demetruce McNeal, trusts his eyes and instincts to contain Browning on an early scramble.
- Junior CB Chris Davis was banged up the second half of the 2012 season, but the 2011 Chick-Fil-A Bowl defensive MVP can show up in the flat quickly. That’s an asset.
- Sophomore CB Jonathan Mincy is prone to penalties, but he should enter 2013 with this mentality: I am the best cover corner on this roster. Needs to be more physical, though.
- When he puts his mind to it, sophomore QB Kiehl Frazier throws a pretty sweet spiral.
- When he puts his mind to it, sophomore WR/PR Quan Bray has a little shiftiness to him.
- Ah, the Frazier-to-Bray-to-Frazier trick play. Good touch throw by Bray, good sturdy hands by Frazier, and great footwork along the sideline to stay in bounds and evade defensive end Malcolm Edmond who had the angle on Frazier. Sophomore TE Brandon Fulse threw a critical block to buy time for Bray, and sophomore RB Tre Mason held up his protection as well.
- Redshirt freshman WR Sammie Coates has afterburners. Just needs handy hands to go with those fleet feet.
- Oh, but he did show he can be trusted to make plays at the end of the first half. Frazier slips out of the grasp of Cameron Blakes (who, by the way, had beat junior FB Jay Prosch’s block), rolls, recovers his footing, and fires high to the end zone. The location and timing was perfect, Coates making the leaping grab to conclude the half and give Auburn a lead at intermission. A big hug from the sideline – mainly, WRs coach Trooper Taylor and sophomore C Tunde Fariyike - greeted Frazier, who looked like he couldn’t quite believe that worked.
- Run blocking was excellent. Line really held their men for longer than they needed. Sophomore C Reese Dismukes’s body blocked two Warhawks on Mason’s 1-yard TD.
- We already mentioned Ford. Let’s do so again. On 3rd down of ULM’s overtime possession, if Ford hadn’t chased down Browning on a rollout, the Warhawks’ QB had an open man who beat corner T’Sharvan Bell on the route. Could have been a much different outcome.
- Sophomore DT Angelo Blackson’s got a big paw. Game-saving paw, as it were.
- Penalties (seven for 65 yards) made this much more difficult than it should have been. Mincy’s pass interference on a deep ball prolonged the opening possession, resulting in ULM’s 12-play, 89-yard touchdown drive. An illegal formation – five men in the backfield – put the kibosh on what might have been a long touchdown throw to Coates (though replay would’ve been needed to confirm the catch).
- Freshman LB Cassanova McKinzy had some rookie moments in his first extended playing time. On 4th-and-goal from the 1 on that first drive, McKinzy bit on the play fake and left tight end Harley Scioneaux wide open for the fade toss. Then in the fourth, he again lost Scioneaux in end zone coverage. Room to grow (and McKinzy did, given a chance to start in October.)
- Bray was too conservative with his fair catches. Former STs coach Jay Boulware would lament this later in the season. It’ll be interesting to see if Bray retains that duty in 2013 with a new staff.
- Frazier stares down Coates on a quick post, and hits the target between the 4 and the 5. The problem is, No. 45 is ULM linebacker DaCorris Ford. Luckily for Auburn he couldn’t make the catch.
- Lightning doesn’t strike twice. In the second half, up 28-14 with the ball in ULM territory, Frazier stares down Travante Stallworth, and never saw safety Mitch Lane. Meanwhile, Emory Blake was streaking open on a deep post.
- Too many mental errors by Frazier, who also improvises a little too much for any offensive coordinator’s liking. Frazier could have avoided overtime in the closing seconds of regulation, but missed both Bray and Blake on what would have set up Parkey for a reasonable FG try.
- Was “KIEHL THROW THE BALL” ever trending?
- Forced to call a timeout due to what seemed like an out-of-order formation, DC Brian VanGorder absolutely lights up junior LB Jake Holland. Ford and Corey Lemonier were each lined up on the left side, though Lemonier said postgame that was apparently intentional. Either way, another miscommunication.
- A few plays later, Holland totally bites on a 3rd-and-2 playaction. Browning takes one cut, and he’s gone to the end zone. This causes Dave Neal and Andre Ware to compare Kolton Browning to Tim Tebow (they’re both left-handed and wear No. 15!) for the rest of the afternoon. (Thanks, Jake.)
- We’re still not sure why Auburn crawled into the fetal position, up two touchdowns in the second half. Only Gene Chizik and Scot Loeffler know that.
- After a quick 3-and-out, Auburn was completely unprepared for the fake punt and run. Should have known ULM coach Dave Berry was going to go you-know-what to the wall.
- Great athlete, that Lemonier. But if he jumps offsides in the NFL as often as he did his junior year, Lemonier’s going to get real comfortable in somebody’s doghouse. One of them negated Whitaker’s tackle for loss of Browning. Another one gave ULM a free first down on 4th-and-2, when Browning threw incomplete. I mean, how is that excusable?
- Holland also was whistled for pass interference in the middle, and McNeal had one on the game-tying TD drive. The seams started falling apart due to penalties.
Notes and tidbits
Here’s a crazy what-if scenario for you:
What if Auburn blew out ULM from the get-go?
What if Auburn never needed that WR option pass from Bray to Frazier this week?
What if Auburn could have saved that trick play for the following week?
What if it worked against LSU?
What if that made the difference in what ended up being LSU 12, Auburn 10?
Just throwing that out there.
The pregame notes indicated Browning completed 32 passes to nine different receivers in the Arkansas upset. Clearly a point of emphasis for that offense, the Warhawks weren’t quite as pinball-y for an encore.
Here’s the Browning pass distribution against Auburn:
Wide receivers: 23 rec, 206 yards, TD (Leonard 7-53, Hamm 5-57, Harper 5-40-1, Maye 4-45, Cook 2-11)*
*Backup Cody Wells fired an 8-yard throw to Tyler Cain*
Running backs: 2 rec, 19 yards (Edwards 1-20, Bailey 1-(-1))
Tight ends: 3 rec, 12 yards, 2 TD (Scioneaux 2-5-2, Milton 1-7)
TOTAL: 28-for-46, 237 yards, 3 TD
Pass plays longer than 20 yards: 2
Just for comparison, Kiehl Frazier completed six passes for 74 yards and a Hail Mary TD to receivers … three completions for 40 yards to tailbacks, and one for 16 to tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen. The Tigers rushed 42 times for 255 yards and two scores.
On the telecast, Ware makes an interesting assessment of Frazier: when his feet get too far apart, he tends to overthrow. That’s correctable. Very correctable.
3) Tre Mason, RB. Why not Onterio McCalebb, he of the ridiculous 11.6 yards per carry? Because Mason’s 22 for 91 were much more workmanlike.
2) Dee Ford, DE. For making Kolton Browning’s life miserable, and that critical third-down QB hurry in overtime which blew up what might have been a TD.
1) Angelo Blackson, DT. Louisiana-Monroe’s not good at kicking things, and Blackson exploited that with a clutch tip in OT.
GUS’ GAME 3: Mississippi State at Auburn, Sept. 14, Jordan-Hare Stadium
#HailState 2012 record: 8-5, 4-4 SEC (lost 34-20 to Northwestern in TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl)
#HailState head coach: Dan Mullen, fifth year (29-22)
#HailState returning starters (o/d): 11 (6/5)
#HailState-Auburn series: Auburn leads 60-24-2, including 27-6 in Auburn. Tigers have won 10 of the past 12 matchups
#HailState-Auburn previous meeting: Mississippi State 28, Auburn 10 – Sept. 8, 2012
Notes: The only time MSU defeated Auburn between 2001-11 was in 2007 (MSU 19-14, at JHS), with Ellis Johnson, Charlie Harbison, Melvin Smith and J.B. Grimes on the Bulldogs’ staff. All four are now Auburn assistants … returning all-SEC picks for the Bulldogs include running back Ladarius Perkins and left guard Gabe Jackson … just like Auburn, the MSU offensive line loses just one senior to graduation … Perkins and quarterback Tyler Russell will be seniors, but there will be turnover at every other starting skill player on offense … four of State’s top six tacklers return, but both established corners (Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay) and both defensive tackles are gone.