War Eagle Extra has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 10 seconds. If not, visit
http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/wareagleextra
and update your bookmarks.

February 22, 2013

Auburn University: football season ticket prices will not increase for 2013

AUBURN, Ala. — Buy seven games, get one free.

That’s basically how it will work for Auburn football season-ticket holders, since the university announced Friday that ticket prices for the 2013 season will not increase from their 2012 figures. The Tigers host eight home games this coming fall, up one from last year, when Auburn opened its non-conference slate with a neutral-site clash with Clemson in Atlanta.

“We deeply appreciate the commitment that our loyal season ticket holders make to support our football program,” Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs said in a statement. “Even though we have eight home games on our schedule compared to seven last year, we felt it was important to reward the loyalty of our fans by holding ticket prices at the 2012 level. This is the first time in our history that we will host Alabama and Georgia at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the same season, so it is a great opportunity for Tigers Unlimited members and all Auburn football fans to get even more value from their season ticket investment. It will be exciting to see the start of the Gus Malzahn era at Auburn this fall.”

General public season tickets remain at $450, faculty/staff costs $225 and student tickets are $140. Tigers Unlimited Fund donor priority tickets also retain their 2012 levels.

The renewal and new membership deadline is March 1, one week from today. Single-game admission ticket sales are expected to be sometime in June.

Fans may call (855) AUB-2010 ext. 2 or e-mail tuf@auburn.edu for more information.

The 2013 home schedule is as follows (SEC games in bold):

Aug. 31 | Washington State

Sept. 7 | Arkansas State

Sept. 14 | Mississippi State

Oct. 5 | Ole Miss

Oct. 12 | Western Carolina

Oct. 26 | Florida Atlantic

Nov. 16 | Georgia

Nov. 30 | Alabama

February 13, 2013

Chris Denson could play bigger role, taking on Frankie Sullivan’s scoring responsibilities

Photo by Todd Van Emst

AUBURN, Ala. – His television survived.

But all other objects in Chris Denson’s bedroom feared for safety the night of Jan. 16.

Denson was home nursing a foot injury, unable to travel with Auburn on its trek to Arkansas.

“I know I wasn’t available. I watched the game at the house actually,” Denson recalled.

The Tigers ended up losing 88-80 … in double overtime. Much to the expense of Denson’s emotions.

“It was real tough. I didn’t even watch the second overtime, because I just couldn’t handle it,” the Shaw product said. “I was throwing things. My next-door neighbors were knocking on the door telling me to calm down. It was pretty frustrating.”

Denson’s healthy now, and has an opportunity in front of him. Frankie Sullivan scored 26 points in that defeat, but ever since has scuffled with his scoring, leading coach Tony Barbee to suggest Sullivan may see some of his shooting guard minutes siphoned off in Denson’s direction in tonight’s tilt with Arkansas (9 p.m. ET, CSS.)

“He’s finally got the confidence back in his foot where he’s able to slash and get to the rim and attack,” Barbee said. “But I think the best part of the game is how he’s affected the game defensively, where he’s really been active guarding the ball. He’s really been alert and aware off the ball.

“I think Chris has earned the opportunity in that spot right now.”

With his teammate seated next to him, Sullivan wasn’t shy to praise Denson for picking up the slack offensively.

“He’s been carrying the load for us and I’ve got to really appreciate a guy that comes back off an injury and start playing like he’s playing, the confidence he’s playing with,” Sullivan said. “I applaud him for that. Chris, he’s a scorer. I’ve been saying that from day one.”

Denson could utilize Sullivan’s blueprint to make life difficult on the Razorbacks’ defense. If Barbee chooses to put Sullivan on the bench to begin the game, it would break his streak of 36 consecutive starts.

“I could see they had trouble defending and I saw Frank torch them up by driving and penetrating,” Denson said. “Brian (Greene) was penetrating and getting Noel (Johnson) open shots. I feel like that I can penetrate, get to the basket, get my teammates opportunities to score.”

Arkansas is 14-9 this year, but still seeks its first road victory in six tries. The Hogs lost at Texas A&M by 18, at the SEC’s last-place squad South Carolina by 21 and at Vanderbilt by 18 on Saturday.

December 1, 2012

What a game, what a finish: Alabama survives epic SEC title shootout 32-28 over Georgia

ATLANTA – Nick Saban assured the masses they were in for a 15-round fight.

It felt like 50. And for everybody from SEC diehards to football purists, every twist and turn of Saturday night’s SEC Championship Game was glorious.

The SEC couldn’t have asked for a much better exhibit to showcase the degree of difficulty in winning the nation’s premier conference.

No program has done that more than Alabama, so in that regard it was fitting the Crimson Tide survived 32-28 over Georgia in an epic clash in front of 75,624 delirious fans at the Georgia Dome.

No. 2-ranked Alabama’s 23rd SEC title – and the Crimson Tide’s (12-1) subsequent reward of trying to defend its national championship Jan. 7 in South Florida vs. No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) – remained in doubt until every last second had ticked off.

“We kind of had that, I-would-not-be-denied attitude out there today,” said Saban, who improved to 4-1 in SEC Championship games. “This conference will test your mettle.”

Given 68 seconds (with no timeouts remaining) to go 85 yards, Georgia junior quarterback Aaron Murray nearly pulled off the most incredulous comeback imaginable.

A couple of downfield hookups to Tavarres King and Artie Lynch helped No. 3 Georgia (11-2) land 8 yards from victory, with 15 seconds to go. The clock winded when everybody was set, and the Bulldogs chose to go for it right then and there.

“Spiking the ball takes time,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We had plenty of time to call a play, so the goal was to take a shot at their back right end of the end zone.”

Murray’s pass was deflected and accidentally caught by flanker Chris Conley, who was immediately downed at the 5-yard-line. The final few seconds ticked off, and the Crimson Tide burst into pandemonium while Georgia’s sideline deflatedly sunk, staring out as the streamers cascaded from the rafters on victorious Alabama.

Though Saturday was dominated by the run game, Alabama junior quarterback AJ McCarron launched the game-winning pass, a 45-yard strike to true freshman Amari Cooper.

“That guy’s a freak of nature, especially for a freshman,” McCarron said of Cooper (seven receptions, 127 yards). “He’s a full-speed guy at all times.”

There were five lead changes from the final play of the first half on. The Bulldogs briefly held the largest advantage, going up 21-10 when Alec Ogletree returned a blocked field goal 55 yards midway through the third quarter.

“We made our mind up at the beginning of the week, that this was going to be a dogfight. Sixty minutes,” Alabama senior linebacker Nico Johnson said. “That’s what we got. No matter what the adversity or circumstances, we kept fighting until the last whistle blows.”

And to think, there wasn’t a single point in the first quarter, unprecedented in the SEC title game.

Alabama’s 350 rushing yards set an SEC championship record. Game MVP Eddie Lacy (181 yards, two touchdowns) and T.J. Yeldon (153) were the first pair of teammates to each surpass the century mark in title-game history, which they each did by the end of the third quarter.

“He was pretty relentless – Eddie did as fine a job as anybody has ever done for us,” Saban said. “The way we were able to run the ball, especially in the second half, was probably the difference in the game.”

They were countered by Georgia’s Todd Gurley, who rolled up 122 rushing yards and with his two scores is now at 16 on the year, topping Herschel Walker for the program’s most touchdowns by a freshman.

Georgia saw its six-game winning streak snapped, and awaits its bowl destination announcement Sunday. Saban emphasized the opposing Bulldogs deserve to play in a BCS bowl game, though it’s unlikely with four other SEC teams in the top ten.

“I told them, I was disappointed, but I wasn’t disappointed in them,” Richt said. “That was the main thing. I told them they were warriors. It was a knock-down, drag-out fight and everybody swung to the end.

“We had a chance at the end, we just didn’t get it done.”

The Crimson Tide won’t have to sweat it out. They’ll go for their third national title in four years, seemingly unthinkable a month ago after losing at home to Texas A&M before Kansas State and Oregon losses reopened the door.

“After that loss, we just had to stay focused, and we weren’t worried about the outcome of other games,” Lacy said. “The chips fell where they fell because we played the way we were supposed to.”

The SEC West has won four straight league titles, the division’s longest such streak.

November 24, 2012

So what now? Chizik’s future is in peril

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Again, Auburn coaches and players spent all week talking the talk. They swore they had improved, promised practice went well, tried to convince anyone who would listen that Saturday would be filled with pride and passion.

For the final time of too many to count, actions spoke louder than words.

The final nightmare was administered by bitter rival Alabama, which outplayed, outcoached and out-everythinged the woebegone Tigers 49-0 Saturday.

“It was a sad performance,” coach Gene Chizik said. “The Auburn fans and the Auburn alumni don’t deserve that.”

GALLERY: Check out photos from the 2012 Iron Bowl

Closing the book on 2012, the Tigers’ collective talk surfaced for a few moments in a crowded visitor’s media room beneath the south stands at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Every Tiger vouched for their embattled head coach, his coordinators and their assistants.

The outgoing seniors Emory Blake and T’Sharvan Bell … the returning veterans Jake Holland, Nosa Eguae and Chad Slade … the upstart youngsters Tre Mason, Angelo Blackson and Jonathan Wallace.

The whole group universally talked the talk: they want Chizik to lead them to better and brighter days in 2013.

But a few accurately added a caveat: it’s not up to them.

Saturday marked Auburn’s second-worst loss to Alabama in the 77-game series history, and sealed the program’s first winless SEC campaign in 32 years.

The actions the Tigers subjected their fans to this year took the decision out of their hands, and put them in the palms of university president Jay Gogue, who said Nov. 16 he would await season’s end to determine the program’s future.

The words Chizik said Saturday – in a forum offered to him to beg for his coaching life with more than 20 cameras from local and national media pointed at his face – were faint and reserved, if not completely consigned to his fate.

“I don’t have to make a case (to be retained),” Chizik said. “You all saw what you saw out there tonight. I’m just very disappointed for our fans. We’ve been in tough times before. We’ve got to come back and continue to work and try to fix everything that kind of spiraled down.”

Chizik, who admitted “there weren’t many” positives this season, was asked specifically whether he had been told by Gogue or athletic director Jay Jacobs whether he’d be back next year. He didn’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question, responding, “I’m not going to go into all the job situation with any questions. This isn’t about me.”

While he didn’t enter specifics of his mindset for the future, Chizik spoke as though there is an Auburn future to address.

“Of course, I am the head football coach at Auburn,” Chizik said, “and there’s no question in my mind that I believe we can get this thing turned around and back on the right track.”

Following an abbreviated six-minute press conference, Chizik’s coordinators, Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder, were not made available to the media for the first time this season.

That left the players to answer for their coach’s tenuous position.

“He should be back,” Wallace said. “I definitely love coach Chizik and the whole coaching staff. They know exactly where this program needs to go, and they know what to do. I hope they are back next year. I really do believe they will be.”

“Coach Chizik is an awesome coach,” Eguae said. “He’s definitely an amazing person and a man of Christ. I just wish the best for him. I’m just looking forward to next season with him as our coach.”

Asked by a reporter how he’d feel about a new regime, Wallace, the freshman quarterback from Central-Phenix City, said, “I don’t agree with that. I don’t really have any comment on that.”

Blackson, a sophomore defensive tackle, said he’d be glad to get Chizik back, but understands the nature of the business – undeniably illustrated by three other SEC coaches (Kentucky’s Joker Phillips, Tennessee’s Derek Dooley and Arkansas’ John L. Smith) being shown the door this year.

“You know, it would hurt, but at the same time, it’s something that you sign up for when you get to college,” Blackson said. “Coaching change is a part of the game … As a team, you’ve got to win. You’ve got to put together a gameplan to win to beat your rival team, but when you don’t, it’s part of the game.

“It’s the consequence you’ve got to pay.”

Alabama 49, Auburn 0: Actions speak louder than words, one last time (with Chizik video)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Again, Auburn coaches and players spent all week swearing they were improved, promising practice went well, convincing anyone who would listen they would play with pride and passion on Saturday.

For the final time of too many to count, actions spoke louder than words.

The final nightmare was administered by rival Alabama, which outplayed, outcoached and out-everythinged the woebegone Tigers 49-0 Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The 77th Iron Bowl figured on paper to be one of the most lopsided matchups in series history. It played out exactly that way, as the Crimson Tide starters scored touchdowns on every one of their seven possessions and Alabama’s vaunted top defensive unit did not allow Auburn to come within 40 yards of the end zone.

Auburn surrendered its tenth SEC loss in a row, sentenced to its first 0-8 SEC campaign in school history. Auburn surrendered its tenth SEC loss of 17 points or more in the last two seasons, getting pummeled on national television by chief rivals Georgia and Alabama in consecutive years.

All of this, less than 24 months following a national championship on the Plains.

With the on-field product gone historically sour, and Auburn facing multiple off-field distractions – capitalized by a rumored NCAA investigation – fourth-year coach Gene Chizik’s future is expected to be addressed within the next 48 hours, as is that of his staff and his boss, athletic director Jay Jacobs.

Alabama led 42-0 after 30 minutes, its largest halftime lead ever on Auburn. Never before in the Iron Bowl’s 77-game history had one team banked 40 points in back-to-back matchups.

Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron completed 15-of-21 passes for 216 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman receiver Amari Cooper hooked up with McCarron five times for 109 yards and two touchdowns, while Eddie Lacy rushed 18 times for 131 yards and a pair of scores.

Alabama converted on its first 11 third-down plays, not requiring the use of a punter until 13:12 remaining in the fourth quarter.

A pair of Auburn senior defenders, cornerback T’Sharvan Bell and linebacker Daren Bates, each had to be helped off by the training staff in the first half. Bell returned, but Blake was replaced by freshman Kris Frost.

On a positive note, Tre Mason barely grinded his way to 82 yards on the day, giving him 1,000 for the season. He became the fifth Tiger in four years to rush for 1,000 yards.

Senior Emory Blake, in his final college game, moved into the top five on Auburn’s all-time receiving yards list, becoming one of only two Tigers (Karsten Bailey 1995-98) to be in Auburn’s top five for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.

Blake hauled in a gorgeous over-the-shoulder pass by Jonathan Wallace in the final minute of the third quarter, good for Blake’s third reception of the day and pushing him over 2,000 yards for his career.

No. 2 Alabama (11-1, 7-1) took care of business to clinch a trip to Saturday’s SEC Championship Game against No. 3 Georgia (11-1, 7-1) at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The winner will likely represent the SEC in the BCS National Championship game, which Alabama has won two of the three previous seasons.

Game Week Links: Previewing The Iron Bowl

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — We’re finally here.

The end of a long road. For many Auburn fans, a merciful conclusion to a brutal fall.

And yet, there’s still the formality of possible college football’s most fervent rivalry to be played. Sixty minutes of football which, no matter what, will be dissected in full for the next 370 days (yes, there’s a year and a week separating Iron Bowl 2012 and Iron Bowl 2013.)

To get you properly pumped, here’s twenty links (20!!!) from the week in @WarEagleExtra coverage, leading up to Auburn at No. 2 Alabama.

Saturday

GAMEDAY PREVIEWWhat do the Tigers play for? The Auburn family, not knocking out Alabama

Friday

LIVE CHAT | Recap the fan chat, pushed back a day to Black Friday

SATURDAY SELECTIONS | Aaron Brenner breaks down and predicts the biggest games around the country

BEAT COLUMN | Brenner: Hang in there, it gets better

LOCAL ANGLE | Jonathan Wallace excited to see former Central center on Alabama sideline

Thursday

BEHIND ENEMY LINES | 5 Questions with Decatur Daily sports editor/Alabama beat writer Mark Edwards

TIGERS IN THE NFL | Nick Fairley highlights Week 11 edition

IRON BOWL PICKS | 22 of 23 state writers, editors tab Alabama to win the Iron Bowl

DEAL OR NO DEAL? | So much has changed since Chizik’s contract was reworked to add buyout clause

Wednesday

YAHOO! REPORT | Add Yahoo! Sports to the list of outlets reporting possible NCAA investigation of Auburn recruiting practices

SABAN SPEAKS | Alabama coach says Iron Bowl has “special edge”, praises Auburn freshman QB Jonathan Wallace

SEC POWER RANKINGSPlus Brenner’s bowl projections for the league’s best

TUESDAY NOTES | Chizik, Saban share mutual respect; Auburn D-Liners recall nastiness in Tuscaloosa

TRE MASON GRAND? | Just 80 yards from a milestone, Auburn sophomore tailback won’t get to 1,000 easily

Tuesday

BATTLING THE ODDS | History not on Chizik’s side with SEC coaches who produce winless league slate

THE HANGOVER, PART XI | Scouting the Alabama Crimson Tide

Monday

SUNDAY NOTES | Jonathan Wallace continues to draw rave reviews

‘NO REGRETS’Chizik sticks with his decision to go pro-style over spread

Sunday

UNDERDOG FOR THE AGESAlabama opens as 34-point favorite over Auburn

SEC TIEBREAKER SCENARIOSJust in case Auburn rocks the SEC West boat (**NOTE: Texas A&M has been eliminated from SEC title game contention, by virtue of LSU’s victory over Arkansas Friday. If the Crimson Tide OR Missouri wins today, Alabama meets Georgia in Atlanta; if the Tide loses and A&M beats Mizzou, LSU will meet the Bulldogs.)

Gameday Preview: Playing for Auburn Family

AUBURN, Ala. — Alabama’s stated goals today are obvious to fans whether they’re in Tuscaloosa or Timbuktu: win the game, clinch the SEC West outright, get ready for the SEC championship game, keep those national championship hopes alive.

The narrative on the other side of the state would be simple enough: take all those things away from a hated rival.

Be aware, though: Auburn’s worrying about honoring its past, not about wrecking Alabama’s future.

“That would be a nice thing to be able to do. Our focus is really just playing in this game and what this game means as a whole,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “Because it’s history, the Iron Bowl.”

Today marks the 77th football matchup between Auburn (3-8, 0-7 SEC) and No. 2 Alabama (10-1, 6-1), the ninth in Tuscaloosa (Auburn has won seven of eight), and first at Bryant-Denny Stadium since the Tigers’ 28-27 thriller coming back from 24-0 down at the half in 2010.

Following the Tigers’ ensuing victories in the 2010 SEC and BCS national title games, the programs have since traveled separate routes. The rocky road culminates in this, the most lopsided matchup on paper in the series’ history and a potential win-or-get-canned proposition for Chizik and his assistants.

The Tigers’ players have politely declined to weigh in on the future of their embattled head coach. They know why they have to show up Saturday.

“We owe this to the Auburn family,” junior defensive end Dee Ford said. “My approach to it is I’m really playing for the people. I’m playing for the 80-year-old man who has been representing Auburn for so long, who bleeds orange and blue.”

Passion has been an iffy intangible recently, when Auburn got blown out of its own house by Texas A&M and Georgia, sending its own fans scurrying for the Jordan-Hare Stadium exits as soon as halftime.

“We’re tired of that because we’re better than that. We’re way better than that,” Ford said. “Especially this week, we’re going to come with a totally different mindset.”

True freshman Jonathan Wallace (Central) makes his fourth start, and second against a highly-touted SEC opponent. Tasked with a game manager role, he’s ensured a smooth transition by completing 62 percent of his throws and, over his last four games, averaging 159.5 passing yards.

“I think it’s been kind of an evolution that’s taken place over time — I can’t say that there’s one point that I said ‘wow, this guy’s the guy,'” Chizik said.

“It’s more of just watching his work ethic and all the things that he puts into it, and watching that transform into being productive on the field.”

It was pointed out to offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler that Texas A&M, the only team to beat Alabama this year, utilized its no-huddle offense early and often to wear down the vaunted Crimson Tide defense. Auburn has gone no-huddle in pieces this season, more so with Clint Moseley than Wallace.

Asked if he’s got anything planned in that facet Saturday, Loeffler smiled and slyly said, “We’ll see.”

Wallace has never before been present at an Iron Bowl. Yet he is set to embrace the moment.

“It’s one of the games that’s going to be remembered forever, no matter what year you played or what your part was,” Wallace said. “Ten, 20, 30 years from now, people are still going to be talking about it. It’s that important.”

November 17, 2012

Notebook: Senior Day goes according to plan

AUBURN, Ala. – The fifth season T’Sharvan Bell has spent in Auburn didn’t go according to plan.

But there was one of those rare moments of happiness this 2012 season when Bell ran onto the Jordan-Hare Stadium field for the final time Saturday, embracing his mother and brothers.

Three hours later, Bell’s family sat proudly in her longtime seat behind the Tigers’ sideline, as safety Trent Fisher’s 60-yard interception return polished off Auburn’s 51-7 victory over Alabama A&M. Bertia Williams looked up at the videoboard, beaming as her son leapt onto Fisher as part of the celebration.

“He’s come a long way,” Williams said, wearing her son’s No. 22 jersey. “There’s been some tough times, but he’s very strong and very determined. He’s always a leader. That’s what he does best.”

The second senior honored behind linebacker Daren Bates, Bell led 10 other seniors onto the field during pregame ceremonies. Bell, who fought off a litany of injuries during his career, said this week he’d try to block out the emotion until gametime.

Then, it’d be time to soak it in.

“It was bittersweet. I had a lot of emotions. Seeing my mom and brothers out there on the field, it was heart-warming for me,” Bell said. “Everybody’s like, man, you’re going to cry, you’re going to cry. I said, no, I’m gonna hold it together.”

Bell didn’t cry, joking that he saw injured tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen shed a tear or two. Bell hasn’t had many chances to display that luminous smile, but took the opportunity after the game.

“I’m definitely going to miss being out there at Jordan-Hare,” Bell said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet, and I can’t tell you when it’s going to sink in, but I’m definitely going to miss it.”

Of all the contributing seniors, the brightest effort Saturday went to tailback Onterio McCalebb, who sprinted to 104 yards and two touchdowns on a team-high 15 carries. He’s only the second player in SEC history to top 2,000 yards rushing, 1,000 kickoff return yards and 500 yards receiving.

“It’s a blessing to go out there and do that because when I got out of high school, a lot of people said, ‘you’re too small to do this or that in the SEC’ and I basically have to go out there and prove them wrong,” McCalebb said.

“It really didn’t hit me until Tiger Walk. It really hit me hard, because I am going to miss playing here.”

No comment: University President Jay Gogue said Friday after a board of trustees meeting he would take the final two games to assess the job security of athletic director Jay Jacobs and head coach Gene Chizik.

Asked about the subject Saturday, Chizik, who has consistently deferred job status inquiries, said, “I’ve already addressed all of that stuff.”

End of the Rhodes: Immediately following Chizik’s postgame press conference, Auburn spokeswoman Shelly Poe received word that senior middle linebacker Ashton Richardson was not selected among the two Rhodes Scholarship recipients out of 12 district finalists Saturday.

Richardson, an animal sciences major and aspiring equine veterinarian who plans to attend graduate school somewhere, missed Saturday’s game while interviewing in Birmingham.

Good times: Auburn’s 512 total yards were the most since it gained 519, in the 2010 BCS Championship Game against Oregon.

Sophomore Tre Mason’s 165 rushing yards in the first half counts as the third-highest total in school history. The only man with more first-half success (twice)? Bo Jackson.

Gone Fishin’: Fisher, a former walk-on, finally gave the Auburn secondary some street cred.

The Tigers hauled in just their second interception of the year Saturday, and the first was by Bates back in the season opener against Clemson. The linebackers group had constantly reminded the defensive backs of this fact.

“They’ve been giving us a hard time about the DBs not getting any,” Fisher said, “so it was good to finally get one today.”

Fisher said he could barely remember the last time he scored a touchdown, and he’d never enjoyed a pick-six at any level.

Oddly enough, the Tigers are now 2-0 when Fisher starts at safety and 1-8 when he doesn’t. Demetruce McNeal, Auburn’s leading tackler entering Saturday, was benched early and only played special teams and garbage-time defense.

“When you look at production, that doesn’t always tell the story,” Chizik said. “It’s because there’s a lot of other things involved than just tackling. That’s why we made the move.”

Ryan Smith also saw heavy playing time alongside Jermaine Whitehead Saturday.

Lineup shift: Other new starters included senior wide receiver DeAngelo Benton, tight end C.J. Uzomah, freshman left guard Christian Westerman and safety Ryan White.

Benton’s career-long 51-yard grab from Jonathan Wallace was just his second reception of the season and 16th of his career.

Westerman played in his third game this year and made his first start at left guard, which sent John Sullen to right guard, Chad Slade to left tackle and Greg Robinson out of the lineup. Westerman did leave the game in the third quarter with a left ankle injury.

Safety dance: Auburn got credit for its first safety this season when Alabama A&M oversnapped its punter in the fourth quarter. With the ball settling at the 2-yard-line and a gunner closing in, Bulldogs punter Chance Wilson batted the ball out of the back of the end zone, awarding the Tigers two points.

Tough Wallace bounces back, leads Auburn to 51-7 romp over Alabama A&M; Tide to follow

AUBURN, Ala. – Jonathan Wallace got his bell rung. Remained down a couple moments, then rose a little woozy. Could’ve come out, talked to the trainer, with his team already leading by four touchdowns.

However, Auburn’s drive was extended by the careless personal foul Alabama A&M committed for illegal contact to Wallace’s head on an incomplete third-down pass. So the Tigers were awarded 1st-and-goal from the 9-yard-line with still 30 seconds left in the second quarter.

Instead of slinking over to the sideline, the precocious Wallace finished the drive and half he started, firing a touchdown dart to Sammie Coates on the very next play – the exclamation point of a 51-7 rout Saturday on Senior Day at Jordan-Hare Stadium before an announced attendance of 74,832.

“It felt great, actually. I don’t mind getting knocked around a little bit,” said Wallace, a freshman from Central Phenix-City now 2-1 as a collegiate starting quarterback. “It took a toll on me a little bit, but I just got to ice it up. It’ll be fine.”

VIDEO: Auburn QB Jonathan Wallace postgame

Wallace flashed his grit and poise, but overall for the second time in three games was content in his role of game manager. He finished 10-for-18, passing for 171 yards and the one score. He also rushed five times for 22 yards, registering his first turnover-free start in three tries.

“He’s a little bit beyond his years when you talk about toughness and maturity for a young guy,” head coach Gene Chizik said. “Our players see that in him and really respect it. Our coaches see it and respect it.”

Wallace has taken several hefty shots this year, going back to his first appearance as a Wildcat quarterback on Sept. 22 against LSU. He continues to absorb hits in the pocket while delivering passes, like the 51-yard bomb to DeAngelo Benton that also drew a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty earlier in the second quarter Saturday.

That furthered a 91-yard touchdown drive, capped by fullback Jay Prosch’s second career short-distance touchdown.

“He always bounces back, and he does not want to come out of the game,” Chizik said of Wallace. “That (shows) how much football means to him, and how much it means for him to be out on the field.”

Wallace traded in his helmet for a baseball cap after senior Onterio McCalebb’s second rushing touchdown in the first minute of the fourth quarter, stretching Auburn’s lead to 42-7 over the overmatched Bulldogs (7-4), an FCS squad which had never before played any BCS conference members.

McCalebb and sophomore Tre Mason trotted out their two-headed monster attack once again, both going over 100 yards for the second time in three games. The pair combined for at least 188 yards in all four non-conference games.

Auburn rolled up 294 yards on its first 20 plays. For comparison, the Tigers have had less than 240 total yards against five SEC opponents.

“It’s the offensive line, of course,” Mason said. “Everyone did what they were supposed to do, and with them doing that we were able to execute plays.”

Mason’s 86-yard touchdown run was the seventh-longest offensive gain in school history, and Auburn’s longest run since Brent Fullwood went for 88 yards against Mississippi State on Oct. 25, 1986.

“I think he’s just gotten better as the season’s gone on,” Chizik said. “I thought the offensive line covered people up well enough today to give him some cracks and be able to run the ball. Tre has become a more physical runner. He’s playing with good vision and protects the ball.”

VIDEO: Auburn coach Gene Chizik postgame

The Tigers outgained their guests 512-208. Auburn’s rush defense was as stout as its offensive teammates, smothering A&M into 22 yards on 25 carries. Former walk-on safety Trent Fisher made the most of Auburn’s first interception this season by a defensive back, bringing it back 60 yards for the game’s last touchdown.

Obviously, next week brings Auburn back to the reality of the SEC, where the Tigers are hoping to avoid their first 8-loss campaign in school history, and it’s a hated rival waiting for them. Auburn travels to No. 4-ranked Alabama (10-1) for the Iron Bowl, which hasn’t seen a 7-win differential between the rivals since 1950.

“No time to celebrate,” senior cornerback T’Sharvan Bell said. “Those guys down the road are the real deal. Everybody here knows it.”

Bell, Auburn seniors gotta go out on high note

AUBURN, Ala. — T’Sharvan Bell knew Auburn fans liked their football.

But the veteran cornerback didn’t fully understand the gut-wrenching passion with which the fans follow the Tigers through thick and thin every day, every week, every year, until he spent five years here.

Bell was reflective this week, looking back on an injury-riddled career that will culminate in a swan song over the next eight days. The farewell begins on Senior Day today at Jordan-Hare Stadium against Alabama A&M, when Bell and 12 other championship ring-wearing seniors are celebrated in a pregame ceremony.

“It’s the real deal. This is a football place,” Bell said. “People eat and sleep football all the way around. I didn’t understand it, not even in 2010 — but now as we’re going through these tough times, you can see that. All they want to do is win. As a football program with great tradition, that’s what they expect. It’s our job to give it to them.”

Bell and other seniors said their legacy will be multifaceted, reminding fans they were underclassman contributors to the 2010 BCS champions but also the leaders of a wayward 2-8 season which has seen the program reach nearly unprecedented depths.

“After we play Alabama, I believe I’m going to be able to forget about this year and move on,” senior tailback Onterio McCalebb said. “I love the Auburn fans and I know they love me. I don’t think Auburn fans will base our performance off this season.”

Auburn has never lost eight SEC games in a season before, and that’s what confronts the Tigers if they can’t record an upset of seismic proportions at fourth-ranked in-state rival Alabama on Nov. 24.

But first things first. The Bulldogs, a 7-3 FCS team, come calling to Jordan-Hare Stadium to conclude the Tigers’ four-game homestand. Head coach Gene Chizik is calling for the crowd to extend a proper reception to this intimate yet memorable senior class, which also includes tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, wide receiver Emory Blake and linebacker Daren Bates.

“I think they should get an outstanding one, and I think that they deserve it for the work they have put in for this university,” Chizik said. “I think it would be extremely fitting that they go out the way they should go out, and that is on a very positive note.”

Freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace (Central-Phenix City) spoke to the value of getting the job done for mentors like Blake, who have helped his progress as the centerpiece of a struggling offense.

“We owe it to those guys,” Wallace said. “They’ve spent their years here and gave their all for Auburn. So it’s really important for us to go out and perform for those guys and just get the ball to those guys and let them have fun.”

McCalebb’s sentiments likely are copied to some degree in most the seniors’ minds, which is why Chizik has placed every priority this week on winning for that group.

“My hat is off to those guys. They’ve endured a very tough year and in your senior year, that’s the last thing that you want to do,” Chizik said. “But as Auburn men, they’ll continue to love Auburn when they leave here. That I know. They’ll continue to make sure that Auburn always stays an important part of who they are and what they do.”