AUBURN, Ala. — The starting defense left the game midway through the second quarter. The staring offense followed suit to start the second half.
Things went just as planned for Auburn in a 62-24 win Saturday against Tennessee-Chattanooga at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“You never know how games are going to unfold,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said, “but we felt like, at some point, if that was the case, that we would certainly benefit from getting the guys out, not from just the health standpoint-wise but also getting some younger guys experience.”
Auburn led 34-7 when the defensive reserves entered the game in the second quarter. Auburn mixed and matched with second- and third-teamers the rest of the way, working in players from the scout team.
“Some of our guys, they didn’t take one single rep on the defensive field this week,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “So we’re trying to kind of work it on the fly.
“But it was good for those guys who work and toil so hard for our program to get some well-deserved playing time.”
Chattanooga managed to move the ball, putting together touchdown drives of 70 and 80 yards. B.J. Coleman threw a touchdown pass to Garrett Hughes just before halftime and Keon Williams ran for a 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
It was the experience that mattered, however.
“They had their moments,” Chizik said.
One win away
LSU’s win against Alabama put Auburn in firm control of the SEC West. The Tigers need to win against only Georgia or Alabama to secure their first SEC championship game berth since 2004.
One more win would give Auburn seven in the SEC this year. The best LSU can finish is 7-1. Auburn holds the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of its 24-17 win Oct. 23 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Darvin Adams replaced Quindarius Carr as a punt returner on a handful of occasions, the first time the junior has been used in that capacity.
Carr, who has handled return duties all year, muffed a punt in the first quarter but managed to fall on the loose ball. It was his first muff since the Mississippi State game Sept. 9.
He returned Chattanooga’s next two punts for 11 and 12 yards but gave way to Adams, who has worked at the position all year but never got into the game.
Adams had several opportunities but only one return for 11 yards.
Big day, twice over
Auburn’s receivers enjoyed a big day. Terrell Zachery caught seven passes for a career-high 148 yards, 80 of which came on a screen pass that went for a touchdown. Adams caught four passes for 106 yards and two scores.
It’s the first time since 1999 that two Auburn receivers went over the 100-yard mark in the same game. Ronney Daniels went for 120 yards and Markeith Cooper 105 against LSU that year.
Running back Mike Dyer ran four times for 76 yards, scoring on a 37-yard touchdown with 8 seconds left before halftime.
Dyer has 799 rushing yards this year, 30 shy of Bo Jackson’s school record for a freshman set in 1982.
LT Lee Ziemba started his 48th consecutive game, one shy of the school record set by Will Herring. … PK Wes Byrum missed an extra point in the first quarter, snapping his streak of 102 consecutive makes. It was the third-longest streak in school history. … Freshman DE Corey Lemonier made his first career start in place of Antoine Carter, who had most of the afternoon off, playing in three series. … Freshman LB Jessel Curry was not at the game. No reason was given for his absence. … RB Onterio McCalebb had a 49-yard touchdown run, the third straight week he has had a long touchdown run. … Senior RB Mario Fannin finished with a game-high 96 rushing yards. He scored two touchdowns in the second half.