AUBURN, Ala. – On Monday, Auburn co-offensive coordinator Will Friend showed the offense the halfback pass play they wanted to run Saturday against Western Kentucky.
“It’s going to work,” Friend told them. We’ve got proof because your Coach did it.”
Then Friend put on the tape from the 2004 Auburn-Georgia game when interim head coach Carnell Williams took the toss from Jason Campbell, ran wide, and then stopped and threw it to a wide-open Anthony Mix for a touchdown.
“Coach Friend was telling them about the play (for Saturday), how those safeties are going to come down off the toss play, and he showed me the play,” recalled Williams. “I said, ‘Hold on, woah. You know who did that, right?’ They said, ‘Yeah Cadillac, I know. I was at Georgia in 2004 when you ran the halfback pass.’
Eighteen years later, the same play worked again.
Midway through the second quarter, Auburn was up 10-3 and threatening to score again. It was the perfect time to unveil it. Friend made the call. Jarquez Hunter received the toss from Robby Ashfordtook a couple steps to his right, and threw it up to Koy Moore who was all by himself in the end zone. Moore hauled it in for a touchdown.
“I saw the safety crash down and was like, ‘Oh my God, touchdown. I know Jarquez is about to put it on the money,'” Moore said.
Hunter, who played a little quarterback in high school, had the most pressure on him. He had to replicate the part of the play his head Coach ran back in the day.
“If he did it, I’ve got to do it, too,” Hunter said. “I’ve got to make mine better.”
This play looks familiar 😏 pic.twitter.com/y41r2aQtZs
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) November 19, 2022
‘RALLYING THE TROOPS’ AT HALFTIME
After Western Kentucky produced two long touchdown drives sandwiched between a short Auburn possession, the Tigers’ 14-point lead vanished into a 17-17 Halftime tie.
More than strategic changes, Auburn required an attitude adjustment. In the Locker room interim head coach Carnell Williams let the players do the talking.
“We weren’t playing Auburn football,” senior Captain Derrick Hall, recalling the Halftime conversation. “That’s the player-led opportunity that he gives us. We had to stand firm right there, Rally these troops, get them together and play a better second half. Obviously, that showed.”
Indeed it did.
After allowing 290 yards in the first half, the Tigers shut out the Hilltoppers in the second half, holding WKU to 106 yards while making two interceptions including a pick-six by DJ James.
“Just tighten up,” said the senior Captain linebacker Owen Pappoe, who made five Solo tackles and broke up a pass. “Winning one-on-one matchups. I’ll give them credit, they had great receivers, they were making really good plays. Tighten up our coverage on the back end and stop giving up these chunk plays.”
‘A KICKER’S DREAM’
Off to a fast start, freshman kicker Alex McPherson drilled a pair of field goals Saturday, including a career-long 51-yarder.
“It was just awesome,” McPherson said. “That’s a kicker’s dream. For your Coach to be able to trust you enough to go out there and hit that kick. For Coach ‘Lac and Coach Roc to send me out there for that kick, it gives me a lot of confidence knowing they have confidence in me from that distance.
“We executed as a unit, the snap, hold, kick, blockers and everybody. It felt good to get it.”
In his first two Auburn games, McPherson is 4-for-5 on field goals and 6-for-6 on PATs.
“That’s a kicker’s dream.”
🗣 @AlexMc83 on his 51-yard field goal vs. WKU.
— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) November 20, 2022
NEXT UP: THE IRON BOWL
Auburn has revved up its running game just in time for the Iron Bowl, with Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter each eclipsing the 100-yard mark in back-to-back games.
A star Auburn running back from 2001-04, Williams will lead the Tigers into Bryant-Denny Stadium, where his Auburn teams won twice, in 2002 and 2004, during Auburn’s string of six consecutive Iron Bowl victories from 2002-07.
“I’m on fire,” Williams said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for the great Nick Saban. I tip my hat to the success that university has. We are going to play Auburn football. These kids are not going to blink.
“We are excited for this opportunity. We want to send these Seniors off. They deserve our best. We’re going to lay it on the line and see what happens.”
“It feels great to be sent off the field this way,” said Pappoe. “We’ve got one more next week. That would feel even better. Time to focus on them.”