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September 5, 2009

Auburn opens Chizik era with big win

Game Ticker | box score

AUBURN, Ala.(AP) Chris Todd and Terrell Zachery hooked up on a school-record 93-yard touchdown pass to help Auburn beat Louisiana Tech 37-13 in Gene Chizik's debut as head coach.

Todd passed for 255 yards and two touchdowns, including the long one early in the third quarter. He had shoulder surgery in December and won the starting job despite missing spring practice in Gus Malzahn's newly installed offense.

Onterio McCalebb rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown to become the first Auburn freshman to run for 100 yards or more in an opener since Bo Jackson in 1982. Ben Tate also rushed for 117 yards.

The fiery Chizik exhorted fans and pumped his fists during the pregame Tiger Walk to Jordan-Hare Stadium. His hiring, after going 5-19 in two seasons as a head coach at Iowa State, drew plenty of fire from fans and the media alike.

The Tigers gained a balanced 556 total yards after having one of the nation's least productive offenses last season, averaging just 302 yards a game. They held Louisiana Tech to 245 yards.

Auburn put it away with Todd's 17-yard pass to Darvin Adams in the right corner of the end zone on a third-and-16 play early in the fourth quarter. McCalebb added a 3-yard touchdown run.

Chizik's first game wasn't always pretty despite dominating the second half 24-3. Auburn committed 87 yards in penalties - mostly on defense - and lost two fumbles.

The Tigers turned the momentum with two big plays. First, freshman Daren Bates made a leaping interception at the 2-yard line. On third down, Todd found Zachery streaking down the right sideline after the defenders bit on his fake for a 20-10 lead. It was the longest completion by an Auburn player, topping an 87-yarder from Jason Campbell to Silas Daniels against Louisiana Tech five years ago.

The Tigers spread the wealth offensively.

McCalebb outdid Jackson's 123-yard debut against Wake Forest, and he and Tate both had 20-plus carries. Todd completed 17 of 26 passes and wasn't intercepted.

Zachery had 98 yards receiving, while Mario Fannin had eight catches for 82 yards and Adams gained 65 yards on four receptions.

Wes Byrum kicked field goals of 25, 49 and 47 yards.

Ross Jenkins completed his first 10 passes for Tech but finished 18 of 33 for 149 yards. He ran for another 36.

Auburn narrowly avoided a halftime tie when teams traded field goals in the final 23 seconds.

The Bulldogs recovered a Tate fumble and marched 90 yards in 18 plays before settling for Matt Nelson's 20-yarder.

Auburn then got a 9-yard run by McCalebb and a 30-yard pass from Todd to Fannin to set up Byrum's 49-yard field goal as time expired for a 13-10 lead.



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