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September 2, 2006

Washington State no match for Auburn

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AUBURN, Ala. -Kenny Irons and Auburn avoided the opening day jitters that have plagued them in the past.

Irons rushed for 183 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown scamper to open the third quarter, and the fourth-ranked Tigers beat Washington State 40-14 on Saturday night.

They avoided another round of season-opening blues with an array of big runs from Irons, big kicks from John Vaughn and big passes from quarterback Brandon Cox.

Auburn had lost three of its last four openers, but will get to enjoy their highest preseason ranking since 1990 at least another week.

Irons had 20 carries and also caught three passes for 40 yards for a career-high in all-purpose yards. He opened Auburn's first drive with a 42-yard carry and never stopped pounding away at the Cougars.

His only misstep came on his biggest play. Irons slowed down around the 5-yard line at the end of his field-reversing 58-yarder to taunt pursuing defender Tyrone Brackenridge and nearly stepped out of bounds, but the play stood after a review by instant replay officials.

Cox was 11-of-18 for 191 yards and had a 34-yard touchdown pass to backup tailback Brad Lester, who also ran for a 12-yard score.

Vaughn kicked four first-half field goals, including a career-long 52-yarder, for Auburn's first 12 points. Then, Lester and Cox made the Cougars pay for a blitz with their swing pass as he dove over the goal line.

The defense hounded Washington State quarterback Alex Brink from the start, sacking him on three of the Cougars' first four plays. Brink passed for 2,891 yards last season but only 67 against the Tigers, completing 11-of-24 passes with a touchdown and an interception.

His longest pass play was 16 yards, and he seldom got time to find open receivers downfield against an aggressive defense under new coordinator Will Muschamp.

The Cougars replaced Brink for one series midway through the third quarter. Gary Rogers quickly moved them downfield before finding tight end Cory Boyd wide-open across the middle for a 50-yard touchdown, making it 26-14.

The Tigers then resorted to trickery in an attempt to regain momentum. Linebacker Will Herring took the direct snap on a fake punt from Auburn's own 16, running 42 yards.

After a halfback pass fell incomplete, Vaughn missed a 36-yard field goal.

But the Auburn defense held and Lester ran in his 12-yarder with 11:02 left in the fourth quarter. After that, the rout was back on.

Herring picked off Brink and Carl Stewart polished off the scoring with a 1-yard run.

Auburn's defense shut down the Cougars other big weapon besides Brink.

Receiver Jason Hill caught a 2-yard touchdown pass but was otherwise shut down after averaging nearly 110 yards per game last season. He had four catches for 18 yards.

Auburn outgained Washington State 484-274, gaining 293 yards on the ground and not turning the ball over.

For more coverage of the Auburn Tigers, check out AuburnSports.com and for more coverage of the Washington State Cougars, check out CougZone.com.

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