AUBURN, Ala. — A severe thunderstorm from the southwest drenched fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium prior to Saturday night’s Auburn-West Virginia football game, delaying its start by 63 minutes.
Rain intensified just as the teams finished their pre-game warmups, prompting the stadium public address announcer to ask the crowd to leave the seating area until the storm and its lightning cleared the area.
The majority of fans in the Auburn student section refused to budge, sitting through the downpour while singing to music being played over the stadium’s loud speakers, which included Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”
A total of 3.75 inches of rain fell during the delay, leaving the field covered in water, although the standing puddles were drained by the time the game started at 8:50 p.m. ET.
Nevertheless, showers picked up again right at kickoff and field conditions were notably sloppy, especially between the hashes.
Several players struggled with their footing. Auburn wide receiver Terrell Zachery slipped to the ground after a long gain in the first quarter. West Virginia’s Jock Sanders did likewise after a third-down catch in the second quarter, falling to the ground despite having open field in front of him.
Tough to tackle
Auburn coaches were concerned about how difficult it would be to take down 6-foot-4, 223-pound West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown, and with just cause.
Brown finished with only 25 yards on 10 carries in the first half, although that number was lowered by sack yardage.
The fifth-year senior proved difficult to take down, eluding a number of arm tackles to create more time in the pocket to pass and scramble for extra yards when the Tigers lost containment on the outside.
On one third-down play in the second quarter, Brown spun out of four would-be tacklers in the backfield before finally being dragged down for a sack by cornerback Demond Washington.
One for the corners
Neiko Thorpe notched the first interception by an Auburn cornerback this season, halting a West Virginia drive deep in Tigers territory in the second quarter.
The Mountaineers had prime field position after Chris Todd threw an interception, but on second-and-16 from the Auburn 25, Brown underthrew a pass to Bradley Starks, who was double covered.
Thorpe, who had the underneath coverage, jumped and picked off the pass, returning it 22 yards before being tackled. It was the sophomore’s third career interception. He’s returned those picks for 123 yards.
Auburn capitalized, getting a 42-yard field goal from Wes Byrum later on the drive that cut West Virginia’s lead to 21-13.
Auburn continued its trend of scoring just before halftime. For the third straight game the Tigers scored with under two minutes to play in the half.
On Saturday, Todd found wide receiver Darvin Adams in the back of the end zone with 1:34 to go before halftime for a 4-yard score.
It was the duo’s second touchdown hook-up of the first half, capping an 11-play, 68-yard drive that took 3 1/2 minutes.
Byrum’s extra point got Auburn within 21-20 heading into the break.
Back in action
Wide receiver Tim Hawthorne returned to action for the first time since breaking a bone in his right foot during summer workouts.
The junior started at one of the wide receiver positions, along with Zachery, but he didn’t have a catch in the first half.
Hawthorne, who coaches expected to be the Tigers’ top receiving threat this season, caught eight passes for 203 yards last season.
Mike Blanc started for a second straight game instead of Nick Fairley at defensive tackle and made a big play in the first half.
The junior sacked Brown from the blindside in the first quarter, knocking the ball loose in the process. Antonio Coleman recovered to give Auburn possession at the WVU 45. The Tigers scored a touchdown six plays later on Todd’s 16-yard pass to Adams.
Blanc finished with two tackles in the first half.
Trott dresses, plays
Despite leaving last week’s game with an injured right knee, senior Tommy Trott started Saturday night.
He dropped a pass on a slant pattern on third-and-10 in the first quarter.
but caught the second ball thrown his way for an 11-yard gain before halftime.
Trott, who had surgery last November after tearing his left ACL, wore braces on both knees.
LB Eltoro Freeman made his first career start. … DB D’Antoine Hood (Central-Phenix City) dressed for the first time this season after missing the first two weeks because of a high-ankle sprain. He did not get into the game during the first half. … DE Nose Eguae (foot), S Mike McNeil (leg) and LB Wade Christopher (unknown) did not dress but were on the sidelines. DE Antoine Carter (knee) was not. … Auburn canceled the pre-game eagle flight because of the weather.