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First contact: Auburn punter Kevin Phillips doesn’t shy away from hit on fake

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn punter Kevin Phillips carries the ball on a fake punt against Idaho Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. (Michael Niziolek | Ledger-Enquirer.com)
Auburn punter Kevin Phillips carries the ball on a fake punt against Idaho Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. (Michael Niziolek | Ledger-Enquirer.com) Michael Niziolek | Ledger-Enquirer.com

Auburn needed a first down, but a spry Kevin Phillips had bigger goals in mind. 

“I had my eyes on the prize,” Phillips said.

On Auburn’s first possession of the second quarter against Idaho Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the junior punter’s number was called on a fake punt at midfield.

Phillips had a chance to step out of bounds without getting hit after passing the first down marker, but didn’t take it. He rumbled down the sidelines for extra yardage until Idaho safety Jordan Grabski laid him out.

After the game, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he was looking for an opening to call the fake in recent weeks.

“We have had that up for a long time, and haven’t had the right opportunity to call it,” Malzahn said. “I thought that was a big play in the game too. It was a pretty close game at the time. It was like fourth and seven. I don’t think we have faked a punt in three years around here. So it caught them off guard.”

Auburn went on to score a touchdown on the drive to take a 14-7 lead. The Tigers would score on four straight possessions to put the game out of reach.

Phillips credited the element of surprise as a key factor in getting the play call to work for a 24-yard gain.

“We kind of knew it was coming,” Phillips said. “We had a feeling the play call would work, we had it in the play book for a while.”

Phillip said as soon as he bounced around the left side of the offensive line he saw “green grass.”

The play helped overshadow what was one of Phillip’s more uneven games kicking the ball. His average of 37 yards on five kicks was more than four yards less than his season average and he didn’t land a single kick inside the 20-yard line.

While Phillips first carry since high school gives him one of the best yards per carry average on the team, the junior college transfer doesn’t think the coaching staff will be eager to give him that many more opportunities.

“Definitely not in my future,” Phillips said with a smile.

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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