AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s offensive players had an extra bounce in their step Monday, laughing and joking in ways they didn’t as the 2008 plummeted downhill.
It was a welcome change.
“I thought having that first win was good for everybody, just to get a good taste in their mouth starting off the season, having a new coaching staff there and having a lot of question marks,” quarterback Chris Todd said. “I thought it was a good solid win to start out.”
The Tigers gained 556 yards of total offense in a 37-13 season-opening win against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, their most since 2005. They finished last season ranked 104th nationally in total offense.
Never miss a local story.
“What’d we punt, twice? Wow,” left tackle Lee Ziemba said. “Usually our punter is about tired after the game. That’s really nice to come out there and move the ball and to win a game against a solid La. Tech team.”
Auburn was especially effective on the ground, gaining 301 yards behind an offensive line that added considerable bulk in the offseason.
“It was nice to see them wear down a little bit,” said Ziemba, who is 30 pounds heavier than last year. “We don’t see it against our defense in practice much because they’re right in shape with us, running that every day. It was good to see the other guy bending over and putting his hands on hips, tired.”
Auburn was hardly perfect. Both Ben Tate and Darvin Adams lost fumbles in Louisiana Tech territory, and guard Byron Isom was flagged for holding on one play when the Tigers were in solid scoring position. But that’s nit-picking.
“I think it was as smooth as I’ve ever seen for a first game,” Ziemba said. “It’s a good building point.”
Freshman running back Onterio McCalebb was honored as the SEC Freshman of the Week after rushing for 148 yards and scoring a touchdown Saturday.
McCalebb, who prepped last year at Hargrave Military Academy, became the first Auburn freshman to have a 100-yard rushing game in a season opener since Bo Jackson ran for 123 yards against Wake Forest in 1982.
McCalebb’s linemen, who cleared the way for Ben Tate to gain 117 yards as well, were happy to see him get recognized.
“No matter what level you’re playing at from Pee Wee on, the running backs are going to get their name in the paper and you’re not,” Ziemba said. “That’s the way it is. I’m proud of Onterio and I’m proud of Ben. You feel like you’ve done your job out there.”
Todd said his surgically repaired throwing shoulder felt fine after Saturday’s game. “My arm feels fresh,” he said. “We still take it easy on days we’re supposed to take it easy. It felt pretty good. The ball was spinning pretty well the other night, so the arm’s holding up pretty good.” ... With Kodi Burns’ success in the Wildcat formation, H-back Mario Fannin said he is no longer working there. ... The Auburn men’s basketball team got a commitment from Knoxville (Tenn.) Fulton High shooting guard Jalen Steele, according to AuburnSports.com. The 6-foot-2, 165-pound Steele averaged 21.3 points per game and led Fulton to its second straight Class AA state championship last season. He is Auburn’s second commitment for 2010, joining forward Heath Houston of Powder Springs, Ga.