Tigers welcome ho-hum game
By ANDY BITTER
AUBURN, Ala. — There were no surprises in Auburn’s homecoming win Saturday against Furman, no drama, no crucial moments.
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It’s just the way the Tigers wanted it.
Auburn put away Furman 63-31 in business-like fashion at Jordan-Hare Stadium, a far cry from last year’s sometimes-tense homecoming victory against Tennessee-Martin, the last time the Tigers played a team from the Football Championship Subdivision.
Auburn (7-3, 3-3 SEC) played its starters for one half, building a commanding 42-3 lead before sitting them in the second, a needed break for a group that has played 10 straight weeks and still has games with Georgia and Alabama on the horizon.
“We were just trying to really survive the game and get out healthy while still giving everybody experience,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said.
The Tigers finished with 655 yards of total offense, the fourth-most since the school began keeping records in 1967 and the biggest yardage day since Auburn gained 680 against Kansas in 1988. The 63 points were Auburn’s most since a 63-3 win against Ball State in 2005.
“We did what we had to do,” said running back Ben Tate, who ran for 75 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half.
Quarterback Chris Todd was sharp, throwing for 256 yards and four touchdowns before halftime. The senior completed his first 14 passes, finally throwing an incompletion with 2:59 left in the half on a low ball to Kodi Burns.
Todd still finished 17-for-18 (94.4 percent), breaking Auburn’s single-game completion percentage, a mark previously held by Jason Campbell.
“That’s hard to do,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said.
“The biggest thing is our line came out and did a really great job,” said Todd, whose 17 touchdowns are tied for fourth most on Auburn’s single-season list. “They really gave us some time to do some stuff.”
Everyone got in on the fun offensively. Receiver Darvin Adams finished with 115 receiving yards and three touchdowns. His nine touchdowns are tied for the third-most by an Auburn receiver in a season.
Running backs Mario Fannin and Eric Smith added touchdowns, but it was the reserves who turned a few heads, particularly the freshman receivers.
Anthony Gulley turned in an iron-man performance, dabbling at defensive back and seeing an increased load on offense. He played tailback for the first time in his life and ran five times for 77 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns, one for 12 yards and another for 50.
“I did not play with the offense all week; I played with the defense,” Gulley said. “Coach told me after the half that he was going to put me on offense, so I ran a little reverse, and then he put me in the backfield. It was great to score a touchdown, especially since it was the first of my career.”
Fellow freshman receivers DeAngelo Benton and Emory Blake had the biggest days of their careers. Blake caught five balls for 32 yards. Benton, who didn’t have a reception in Auburn’s first nine games, had six catches for 88 yards Saturday.
“When I caught the one I knew it was on then,” Benton said. “I feel like can’t nobody stop me now. I got my confidence all the way up now so ... you’re all going to see a lot of me.”
Backup quarterback Neil Caudle played the entire second half, going 10-for-12 for 117 yards.
Defensively, Auburn’s starters played one of their best games. The Tigers held Furman (4-5) to 59 yards in the first half. The Paladins had zero rushing yards and were 0-for-7 on third downs.
Auburn’s defensive starters didn’t bother bringing out their helmets in the second half. They watched as second-, third- and scout-team players got a taste of action.
“It was nice,” defensive end Antonio Coleman said. “The young guys got out and got a chance to play. I think they deserve to go out there and have a little fun.”
The rout was a confidence booster for Auburn, which begins Amen Corner next Saturday with a trip to Georgia before hosting Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 27.
“We got our swag back, and it’s good timing, too,” said Coleman, keenly aware of who remains on the schedule. “We’ve got some big games coming down the stretch.”