AUBURN - What appeared to be an impending blowout turned into an overtime nailbiter, but Auburn's football team made enough plays to escape Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday with its first victory of the season.
Cody Parkey celebrates with Ryan White (19) and Chad Slade (68) after game-winning field goal/Robin Conn photos
It wasn't easy. It wasn't pretty. And it was a long way from being good enough to handle another Louisiana team that comes calling next week. But nobody in the Auburn locker room was complaining after Cody Parkey's 35-yard field goal gave the Tigers a 31-28 victory over Louisiana-Monroe before a crowd of 85,214.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik acknowledged there was still much on which to improve as the Tigers look to a daunting challenge here next Saturday against LSU. But he welcomed breaking free from an 0-2 start.
"You know what?" Chizik said. "I am proud of the guys in the locker room. They fought together. They hung together. It wasn’t always pretty, but we beat a good football team today. It is something to build on, and we will continue to do that tomorrow. We'll go back to work.
"We have a great challenge next week, but we are going to enjoy this one today. Again, I am proud of those young men in the locker room because the bottom line is we got our first victory, and we got it at home. So, that was a good thing. Again, we have a lot of work to do, and we will learn a lot from this tape as we move forward.”
Onterio McCalebb gained 128 yards on 11 carries and Tre Mason 91 on 22 at the Tigers rushed for 255 yards. Kiehl Frazier, in his first home start, completed10-of-18 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown with one interception. He caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Quan Bray. Corey Lemonier and Angelo Blackson blocked ULM field goal attempts
After ULM took a 14-7 lead on Browning's 39-yard run, Auburn scored twice in the final 2:18 of the first half to take a 21-14 lead. They drove to another touchdown on Tre Mason's 1-yard run on the first possession of the third quarter.
But ULM and quarterback Kolton Browning wouldn't go away, taking advantage when two Auburn drives died on turnovers - one on Mike Blakely's fumble at the ULM 5 and one on Frazier's interception - and
After ULM took a 7-0 lead, McCalebb ran 27 yards with 6:06 left in the first quarter to tie it. It was all set up by a Frazier's 34-yard pass to running back Mason after a nifty scramble.
Trailing 14-7, Auburn marched 75 yards to tie the game. On first down at the 33, Frazier threw backward to Bray, who threw back to the wide-open Frazier, who took it into the end zone 2:18 left in the first half.
The Tigers got the ball back at the ULM 38 after a short punt. On the final play of the half, Frazier escaped pressure and lofted a pass into the end zone. Redshirt freshman Sammie Coates, who had an earlier touchdown catch wiped out by a penalty, outjumped everyone. Cody Parkey's extra point made it 21-14 at halftime.
Auburn romped 65 yards in 11 plays after the second-half kickoff to make it 28-14.
After Lemonier blocked a field goal attempt by Justin Manton, Auburn mounted a potential game-clinching drive.
McCalebb ran 43 yards to the 33, then Blakely got his first chance. He ran for 13 yards, then was stopped for no gain. From the 20, he charged to the ULM 1, but the ball came loose and ULM recovered at the 5.
The game was never the same.
Browning threw two touchdown passes to force the overtime.
Auburn's defense forced a three-and-out, and Blackson got a hand on Manton's field goal attempt. Mason ran 10 yards to the 15, Frazier ran the ball to the middle of the field and Parkey kicked the field goal that gave Auburn its first victory of the season.
Parkey is 6-for-6 on field goal tries this season, and the biggest one so far went right through the middle.
"We have a lot of confidence in Cody," Chizik said. "He hasn't missed yet."
Chizik bristled at the suggestion that Saturday's victory was something less than meaningful.
“You can view it any way you want to view it," Chizik said. "That is going to be up to you. I view it as a great win against a very good football team."