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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2007
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Kansas State receiver Jordy Nelson tries to escape the tackle of Auburn’s Jonathan Wilhite in the second quarter of Saturday’s game. Nelson was called for a face mask penalty on the play.
AP photo by Dave Martin
Kansas State receiver Jordy Nelson tries to escape the tackle of Auburn’s Jonathan Wilhite in the second quarter of Saturday’s game. Nelson was called for a face mask penalty on the play.

Injury bug hits AU kicker

By Ross Dellenger
sports@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

AUBURN — Place-kicker Wes Byrum hobbled out of Auburn’s athletic building Sunday afternoon, wearing a boot on his kicking foot and holding a pair of metal crutches.

But don’t worry, Auburn fans — he said he will be fine to play in Saturday’s game against South Florida.

The Tigers’ starting field goal kicker and kickoff specialist, Byrum said he twisted his right ankle after making a tackle during the first kickoff of Saturday’s 23-13 win over Kansas State. He kicked off two more times after the injury and made 3 of 4 field goal attempts.

Coach Tommy Tuberville said Byrum has the team’s “most serious” post-game injury. The coach said the true freshman’s foot is “swollen a little bit.”

When asked if Byrum will be able to practice early in the week, Tuberville said, “No. We’ll wait and see. It’s one of those deals. We’ll see what happens.”

Byrum suffered the injury on his opening kick of the game when he rushed down field to help tackle K-State returner Leon Patton.

“He has not watched film. Kickers do not run down the field and make tackles,” Tuberville said, chuckling. “That’s the old defensive mentality.”

Freshman walk-on Graham Sutter is Byrum’s immediate backup. Tuberville said Sutter and junior Zach Kutch will have chances early this week in practice to kick.

“We’ll let them kick this week, but Wesley could kick,” Tuberville said. “He kicked last night. He kicked (three) field goals with the ankle the way it was, but he might not be able to kick off.”

Byrum did not kick off in the second half, but he did attempt two field goals, making one and missing a 47-yarder early in the fourth quarter.

Byrum told Tuberville that the ankle injury did not affect the kick.

“He hit the ball pretty well, but he just hit the ball right,” the coach said.

Austin High grad Morgan Hull replaced Byrum in the second half, but for only one occasion.

Hull’s kickoff in the third quarter was a low, wobbly boot that sailed out of bounds. With a 5-yard penalty enforced, Hull re-kicked. The second kick nearly went out of bounds too, but it was picked up at the 25-yard line.

“Two weeks ago, he wasn’t even thinking about anything but going to school,” Tuberville said, “and he’s out there kicking into the wind on national television.”

Kutch replaced Hull for Auburn’s last two kickoffs of the game.

Hull walked onto the team two weeks ago and has been competing with Byrum for the kickoff spot. He made 14 of 16 field goals, including a long of 53 yards, during his senior year at Austin.

Hull, who is on academic scholarship, was recruited by a host of schools, including Arkansas and Ole Miss, but badly wanted to attend Auburn.

When asked if Hull would kick off Saturday if Byrum can’t go, the coach said, “I don’t know. We’ll have to look at that.”

Although he missed that 47-yarder, Byrum scored the only Auburn points until the final minutes of the game. He made kicks of 20 and 39 yards in the second quarter and nailed a 31-yarder in the third quarter.

As if it wasn’t enough he was kicking in his first college game — which happened to be on national television — he was doing it with a twisted ankle.

Tuberville is not surprised. A Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native, Byrum has impressed the coach with his confidence and stamina since arriving on campus this summer.

“He’s head-strong,” Tuberville said. “Nothing really bothers him. He thinks he can do anything. That’s what you like about a kicker.”

Auburn Monday playback

Three points No. 18 Auburn should remember after Saturday’s 23-13 win over Kansas State:

At least Brandon Cox’s sternum is still intact: The senior was sacked five times and hurried eight times. His head looked like a bobble-head doll, bouncing about as K-State pummeled him. The offensive line’s missed blocks eventually will cost Cox an injury, but for now, he’s OK.

Beware of underdogs: Auburn was a 131/2-point favorite in its game against K-State. The Tigers will likely be another big favorite when South Florida comes to town Saturday.

Carl Stewart is a fullback, not a running back: Auburn replaced suspended running back Brad Lester with a combination of Ben Tate and Stewart, who starts at fullback. Three of Stewart’s five carries went for losses.

Ross Dellenger

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