AUBURN – Bruising running back Cameron Artis-Payne had never seen anything like it. The fans had come and come and kept coming into Jordan-Hare Stadium for Saturday’s A-Day game.
Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for 117 yards/Todd Van Emst photos
Finally, a record A-Day crowd of 83,041 showed up to scream and yell and get a look at Gus Malzahn’s first Auburn football team. Crowds were often numbered in hundreds when Artis-Payne was running the ball at Allan Hancock Junior College. Saturday, he took the field to a roar like he’d never heard.
“I was shocked,” Artis-Payne said. “I’ve never been around 80,000 people before, for a spring game on top of that. I can’t wait for the regular season.”
Malzahn was equally impressed with the crowd that showed up to watch and then to go roll the Toomer’s oaks for the final time.
“It says a lot,” Malzahn said. “I think it says a lot to college football. They had a tough year last year, but for them to come out and support our team, that’s overwhelming from a coach’s standpoint. Our players had big eyes. They really enjoyed it. It will go a long way as far as our players, our coaches and recruiting.”
Artis-Payne, who played mostly with the Blue team, wanted to show those fans something, and he did just that. He rushed 18 times for 117 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown sprint. He caught two passes for 47 yards. And he was named the winner of the Lionel James Offensive MVP Award.
The Orange team, made up mostly of first-teamers most of the time, won the game on the scoreboard 35-14. But that scarcely mattered.
“As a team, we see how explosive we can be on offense,” Artis-Payne said. “Our defense is coming together. It’s motivation for us to work harder. I think the team can be great. We have a mastermind as far as offense. As long as we execute, we can be as good as we want to be.”
The Orange took the lead on the Blue’s first offensive play when center Tunde Fariyike snapped the ball over quarterback Jonathan Wallace’s head. Justin Garrett, winner of the Mark Dorminey Defensive MVP Award, won the race to the ball, scooped it up and took it in.
Artis-Payne’s 27-yard run for the Blue made it 7-7. Wallace hit Brandon Fulse with a 17-yard touchdown pass for the Orange. Kiehl Frazier hit Trovon Reed with a 9-yard touchdown pass and had a 7-yard touchdown pass for the Orange. Wallace directed back-to-back touchdowns, one with the Blue team and one with the Orange team. He threw a 28-yard pass to walk-on wide receiver Dimitri Reese for the Blue and led a 70-yard drive that culminated in Tre Mason’s 4-yard run for the Orange.
Cody Parkey kicked seven extra points but missed two field goals.
Wallace and Frazier split time with the two teams. Wallace completed 19-of-26 passes for 191 yards a touchdown. Frazier completed 10-of-16 for 112 yards. Sammie Coates caught four passes for 84 yards. Ricardo Louis caught seven passes for 35 yards and Quan Bray five passes for 18 yards. Tre Mason, who has missed most of spring with an ankle injury, rushed 11 times for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Defensive end Nosa Eguae had six tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss. Cornerback Ryan White had six tackles. Linebacker Mack VanGorder, cornerback Joshua Holsey and safety Jermaine Whitehead had five tackles apiece.
Malzahn said he liked most what he saw on cool, sunny afternoon.
“There was some good and there was some bad, but I’m real proud of our guys and the way they responded – hustling on and off the field, dealing with adversity, dealing with some success,” Malzahn said. “That’s what I was looking for. Overall, I was pretty well-pleased. We did make mistakes. I think they are correctable.
“Every scrimmage, I feel like we’ve improved in all areas. It was good to be in front of a crowd. Certain players, especially young guys, you want to see how they are going to respond. This was a great atmosphere. It gave us a lot of good information from a coach’s standpoint.”
For videos of interviews with Malzahn and Artis-Payne, follow the links below.