Todd ties record as Auburn tallies 560 yards offense
By ANDY BITTER
Auburn, Ala. — The rout everyone anticipated took longer to get under way than expected on a soggy Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Nevertheless, Auburn eventually took care of business in a lopsided 54-30 win against Ball State before an announced crowd of 83,118, getting through September unbeaten for the first time since 2006.
“We didn’t always play like we had hoped,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “Obviously there were some really sloppy moments in the game. It didn’t look like we were in sync a lot of times. The bottom line is right now we found a way to win again.”
Quarterback Chris Todd tied a school record with five touchdown passes to lead Auburn (4-0), which finished with 560 yards of total offense, the third time in four games Gus Malzahn’s up-tempo offense has topped the 500-yard mark. After scoring 208 points all of last season, the Tigers have already scored 181 through four games this year.
“We really just had some guys who made some big plays,” said Todd, who tied Daniel Cobb’s five-touchdown mark that was set against Louisiana Tech in 2001. “We kind of credit that to the entire offense.”
It wasn’t all easy. Auburn waited through a 30-minute weather delay and then a sluggish start before getting things going against an overmatched Ball State (0-4). A muffed punt by Anthony Gulley set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Cardinals running back MiQuale Lewis just three minutes in, the fourth time in four games that the Tigers have trailed this season.
It was only a brief low point. Auburn came back with 30 unanswered points, most of them the result of Todd’s arm. The senior was an efficient 19-for-26 on the night, throwing for 287 yards and completing touchdown passes to four different receivers.
The Tigers did things quickly. The longest of their four first-half touchdown drives was one minute, 50 seconds.
“You take them when you can get them at this level,” Malzahn said.
Todd and wide receiver Terrell Zachery hooked up five times on the night for 122 yards and two touchdowns. The first, a screen pass that went for 46 yards, gave Auburn a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. The second, a 65-yard bomb over the defense, made it 30-7.
Despite a 33-10 halftime lead, Auburn continued to throw in the second half and kept throwing, with Todd finding Darvin Adams for a 29-yard score on the opening drive.
Ball State answered with a touchdown, but the Tigers marched 72 yards in four plays in response. Todd dumped off a pass in the flat to H-back Mario Fannin, who broke a tackle and raced 36 yards for a touchdown that made it a 47-17 game midway through the third quarter.
That’s nine touchdown passes in the last two games for Todd. Auburn had seven as a team last year.
“I think with each game he’s feeling more comfortable with everything that goes with it, as far as reading defenses, protections, what they’re giving us, what their different coverages are,” Malzahn said. “He made some real good plays tonight.”
Auburn finished with 254 rushing yards. Onterio McCalebb had 83 yards and a score, and Ben Tate added 63 yards. Backup quarterback Neil Caudle even got in on the action with a 52-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, the Tigers allowed 260 yards, although much of that came late after Auburn put in its second- and third-stringers. Ball State only had 72 yards of offense at halftime.
Auburn continued to be aggressive, forcing two more turnovers, giving the Tigers 12 on the season. Linebacker Josh Bynes added another highlight, shooting through the line and stuffing Lewis in the end zone for a safety, the first recorded by an individual Auburn defender since 1998.
Despite the win, Chizik was left with little indication of if his team is ready to begin the SEC portion of its schedule in earnest next week with a trip to Knoxville to play Tennessee.
“Whether I feel like it or not, that’s where we’re going,” he said. “We’ve got to get a lot of things cleaned up. It’s a very young team, and a very thin team, and it’s a good football team we’ll be playing.”