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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Final: Auburn 41, West Virginia 30

Late night, but here's how tomorrow's story starts. I'll be back with more later:
AUBURN, Ala. — Skeptics poked holes in Auburn's first two victories this season, pointing out that Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State were hardly top-notch competition.

There's not much they can say after Saturday night.

Auburn passed its first major test of the season, pulling out a 41-30 victory against West Virginia before a rain-soaked capacity crowd of 87,451 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"We played a good football game at times," Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. "We had to overcome more adversity than we probably did the first two weeks. It’s a sign of a team believing and coming together."

The Tigers (3-0) kept pace with the Mountaineers' high-powered offense, led by the combination of quarterback Chris Todd and wide receiver Darvin Adams, who hooked up for three touchdowns on the evening. Their third — a 17-yard strike with 12:07 left in the game — gave Auburn its first lead of the night at 34-30.

Linebacker Craig Stevens sealed the win, tipping a screen pass from West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown to himself before dodging tacklers for 15 yards on his way to the end zone with 3:41 to play.

"When I got going, I wasn't going to take no for an answer," Stevens said.

Auburn finished the game with five interceptions and six total takeaways.
Here's everything we managed to write on a tight deadline:
Here are some other notes and quotes. It's late, so I'll keep this brief:
  • Stevens, summing up Auburn's mind set right now: "Our goal is to just to take it game by game," Stevens said. "We have a 12-round fight ahead of us and this was Round 3."
  • Big night for Adams, who caught six passes for 80 yards and three scores. He's the first Auburn receiver to have three touchdown receptions in a game since Alexander Wright scored four times against Pacific in 1989. "I want to thank Chris for having the trust to throw me the ball," Adams said. "I work a lot with Chris after practice getting our timing down. He has a lot of trust in me."
  • Todd was 16-for-31 for 284 yards and four touchdown passes, the first Auburn quarterback to throw for four scores in a game since Daniel Cobb in 2001. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said afterward that Todd was sick during the week, too. "There were times when we weren’t moving the football," Chizik said. "But you looked in his eyes and all you saw was confidence."
  • West Virginia was no slouch. The Mountaineers out-gained 509-400. RB Noel Devine proved that last year was no fluke, running for 128 yards and three scores. WR Jock Sanders had 12 catches for 115 yards.
  • Brown, despite his interceptions, threw for 221 yards and a touchdown. He added 66 yards on the ground, proving to be a load to take down. "He's quick," said Auburn cornerback Neiko Thorpe, who had an interception. "You would think he has something on his jersey, the way he keeps slipping away." Stevens called Brown one of the best quarterbacks he's ever played against.
  • Auburn, which topped 300 yards in each of its first two games, found success on the ground much tougher against West Virginia. Ben Tate ran for 75 yards and Onterio McCalebb 20, neither averaging 4 yards per carry. The Tigers finished with exactly 100 rushing yards.
  • Todd on Auburn mounting a comeback from deficits of 14-0, 21-10 and 27-20: "Coach always tells us about impostors during a game and we had to take them down with our will. We had to react to the situation and we always knew that we could come back from the deficit. We need to make a few adjustments out there and come out stronger next time."
  • Auburn has scored points in all 12 quarters its played this year. The Tigers have scored in double digits in 10 of them. Not too shabby.
  • The Tigers have scored 127 points in their first three games, their most to start a season since putting up 136 against UAB, Fresno State and Ole Miss in 1996.
  • Chizik was impressed with the crowd, which stuck it out through the pre-game thunderstorm. "I wish I had 87,000 game balls, because our fans were a huge reason we won that game. And I want them to know that."

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