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September 24, 2011

Not pretty, but a win

It wasn't the type of game Auburn coach Gene Chizik would have liked.

The Tigers scored just two touchdowns on offense and gave up 307 total yards on defense, but managed to beat Florida Atlantic 30-14 Saturday night inside Jordan-Hare Stadium to move to 3-1 overall on the season.

"I thought it was a very below average football game all the way around from the beginning to the end," said Chizik. "Offensively, we struggled, and we have to get some things corrected there. That was from the opening play on really. We never really got into any kind of rhythm."

On Auburn's first offensive play of the game, junior quarterback Barrett Trotter threw an interception that led to a Florida Atlantic field goal and an early 3-0 deficit. The Tigers and Trotter responded on its next possession as Auburn manufactured an 11-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown strike to Emory Blake.

The drive was one of the few bright spots on offense the remainder of the night.

Auburn scored 30 points, but seven of those came from an interception return for a score by freshman Jermaine Whitehead. The Tigers ran just 62 plays and gained a total of 315 yards, 51 of which came on a Trotter-to-Onterio McCalebb touchdown catch and run.

Auburn, for the fourth game of the season, lost the time of possession battle. FAU had the ball nearly five minutes more than the Tigers and ran four more offensive plays.

Trotter finished 16-of-28 passing for 178 yards two touchdowns and the interception, but Chizik said his quarterback was under duress all night.

"I felt like he was scrambling for his life a good bit of the night which is concerning to me," said Chizik. "We dropped balls tonight which we normally don't do. We had some passes that should have been directed into a better spot, and we didn't get them there. We got pressure on the quarterback several times tonight when we should have been able to protect him."

The running game wasn't much better.

Sophomore running back Michael Dyer, after a week of the Auburn coaches vowing to get him more carries, had a season-low 14 against FAU even though he averaged nearly five yards per touch during the game. Dyer finished with 68 yards rushing.

Blake and freshman Trovon Reed led Auburn in receptions. Blake, the junior, had five catches for 78 yards and the touchdown. Reed had a season-high five catches for 27 yards, but left the game late in the fourth quarter with an apparent hand injury.

Defensively, Auburn allowed FAU, statistically one of the worst offenses in the country going into the game, to rush for 108 yards, pass for 199 more and convert 6-of-14 third-down plays. FAU went into the game converting just 9 percent of its third-down opportunities. The Owls converted nearly half against the Tigers.

The Tigers' defense did force turnovers, at least through the air. Auburn had three interceptions including the one from Whitehead that he returned 25 yards for a touchdown on FAU's opening drive of the second half. Senior safety Neiko Thorpe and sophomore linebacker Jake Holland each had interceptions as well.

Sophomore defensive end Corey Lemonier led the Tigers with six tackles, all unassisted, and had two tackles for loss including a sack. Three cornerbacks, T'Sharvan Bell, Robenson Therezie and Ryan White each had five stops.

"It just wasn't a very good performance all the way around, but again, we scored 30 points," said Chizik. "We won the game, and we will build on all of the positives tomorrow and get all the negatives corrected."

Auburn won't have much time. The Tigers travel to undefeated South Carolina in seven days.




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