AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn will be without another defender at the outset of next week's SEC opener against Mississippi State.
Late in the third quarter of Saturday's game, Auburn's Kris Frost leveled Arkansas State quarterback Adam Kennedy. Officials deemed that the hit was too high, and ejected the Tigers' sophomore linebacker per the NCAA's rules on targeting. Auburn was also assessed a 15-yard flag due to the hit. Since the ejection occurred in the second half, it also means Frost will have to miss the first half of next Saturday's contest.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn had little to say about the play in his postgame press conference.
"(Frost) hit (Kennedy) high," the coach said.
Fellow linebacker Cassanova McKinzy was disappointed the team would have to play without Frost for the first 30 minutes next week, but said nothing could be done now.
"Rules are rules," he said. "If the referee says it was an illegal hit, it was an illegal hit. We can't argue with him. You've got to deal with the consequences."
Despite Frost's absence, McKinzy wasn't worried about the linebackers corps.
"I wouldn't think it would be too tough because we rotate (so much), and all of our linebackers rep," he said. "We've got a really good rotation right now, so I don't think it'll really hurt us much."
Auburn’s defense got a makeover Saturday, with new starters at three positions.
Junior Robenson Therezie started at the "Star" position ahead of injured junior Justin Garrett (ankle) for the second consecutive week. Therezie had two interceptions and seven tackles in Auburn’s season-opening victory over Washington State.
On the defensive line, junior tackle Ben Bradley moved into the starting lineup in place of senior Jeffrey Whitaker, who is still out with an undisclosed injury. Senior end Nosa Equae moved ahead of junior LaDarius Owens, who started on the right side last week.
Opelika native Corey Grant also got his first career start, lining up at running back for the Tigers on their opening drive.
Etheridge honored with James Owens Award
Former Auburn safety Zac Etheridge received the second annual James Owens Courage Award before Saturday’s game.
Etheridge suffered a cracked vertebra and torn ligaments in his neck in a 2009 game against Ole Miss and wore a neck brace for six months. He came back to start for the Tigers in 2010, recording 69 tackles, intercepting three passes and returning a fumble 47 yards for a touchdown against Arkansas.
The 2010 team went on to win the Bowl Championship Series title that season, beating Oregon 22-19 in the deciding contest.
The James Owens Award was named for Auburn’s first black football player and awarded to him last season.
McKissic contributes in loss for Red Wolves
While his team walked away in defeat, Phenix City native J.D. McKissic didn't disappoint family and friends in attendance, as the Arkansas State receiver snagged a pair of receptions for 45 yards. Both catches came in the first half.
Forty of those yards were picked up on a single play, as Kennedy hit the redshirt sophomore on a long pass up the right sideline late in the first quarter. McKissic, a Central High School graduate, was Arkansas State's top pass-catcher last season, hauling in 103 receptions for 1,022 yards and five touchdowns.
McKissic has gotten off to a slightly slower start this season, as he had just two catches for three yards in the Red Wolves' dominating 62-11 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff last week.
Senior cornerback Chris Davis and junior center Reese Dismukes were Auburn's captains for the game. ... Cody Parkey converted all five of his point-after attempts, extending his SEC-best streak of successful PATs to 58 in a row. ... Junior receiver Jaylon Denson's 17-yard grab in the first quarter was a career-long. ... Auburn's 1988 SEC Championship squad was honored on the field during pregame ceremonies, part of the team's 25-year reunion this weekend.