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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2007
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Auburn Report

Two freshmen on OL

AUBURN — True freshmen Ryan Pugh and Chaz Ramsey started for Auburn at left tackle and right guard, respectively, in Saturday’s 55-20 win over New Mexico State.

Ramsey and Pugh had not played a down in their collegiate careers before Saturday. Ramsey replaced an injured King Dunlap, the only returning starter on the line. Dunlap, a senior, wasn’t dressed out for the game after suffering an elbow and wrist injury in the first quarter of the previous week’s loss to Mississippi State.

Pugh, who had been backing up center Jason Bosley, started in place of Mike Berry, who also suffered an injury last week.

Ramsey, a Madison, Miss., native, was ranked the 13th best guard in the nation by Rivals.com following his senior year of high school. Pugh, who is from Hoover, was slated as the No. 1 center prospect in the nation by espn.com.

She says yes

Everyone seemed to chip in for the Tigers in Saturday’s win over New Mexico State — including Renee Steptoe, the girlfriend of Auburn defensive tackle Josh Thompson, who said “yes” to Thompson’s on-field marriage proposal following the romp.

“I wanted an exciting proposal and this is about as exciting as you can get,” Thompson said.

Powers starts hot

Decatur High grad Jerraud Powers had two tackles and a forced fumble in the opening minutes Saturday.

His hit on New Mexico State receiver A.J. Harris forced the ball to squirt out. Tigers defense tackle Pat Sims picked up the fumble and raced 21 yards for an opening touchdown.

Powers finished with six tackles.

Going back to Fannin

Redshirt freshman running back Mario Fannin finally got his first carry of Saturday’s game midway through the second quarter.

Fannin fumbled twice against South Florida and once against Mississippi State.

His third-quarter fumble last week was his last carry until a 5-yard rush with 7:50 left in the second quarter Saturday night. A carry later, Fannin tumbled into the end zone for his second career touchdown.

He finished with 103 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Byrum kicks off

True freshman kicker Wes Byrum kicked off Saturday for the first time since the season-opening win over Kansas State.

He twisted his ankle during the opening kickoff of that game but has remained Auburn’s field-goal kicker.

He showed no signs of weakness booting his first kickoff into the end zone for a touchback.

Austin High grad Morgan Hall joined Byrum kicking off during pregame warmups. Hull walked on to Auburn in late August. He was competing with Byrum to be the kickoff specialist leading up to the first game, but Byrum won the job.

Following Byrum’s injury in the opener, Hull got a chance to kick off in the third quarter. His boot sailed out of bounds. He has yet to attempt another kickoff.

No weather worries

A tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico was expected to bring rain and wind to Auburn on Saturday, but nothing more than a cool breeze swept through Jordan-Hare Stadium as sunny skies greeted the opening kickoff.

The depression moved inland late Friday near Fort Walton Beach, Fla., carrying winds of up to 40 mph. It drenched the Florida panhandle with 1 to 3 inches of rain.

Bennett makes 1st catch

Auburn starting tight end Cole Bennett caught his first pass of the season late in the second quarter.

A senior, Bennett was responsible for a Mississippi State touchdown last week when a pass bounced off his fingertips, was picked off in midair and returned for a touchdown.

AU gets 12th recruit

Receiver Jarmon Fortson, a three-star prospect from Georgia, committed to Auburn on Saturday.

Fortson is from Carver High in Columbus, Ga. He is ranked as the No. 78 receiver in the country by Rivals.com. Fortson had offers from Alabama, South Carolina and Louisville, according to Rivals.com.

“It just felt like the right place for me,” said Fortson, whose high school quarterback at Carver, Deron Furr, committed to Auburn in the summer. “I decided to go ahead and do it after talking with Deron, my mom and my coaches. It takes a lot of pressure off me now.”

Grading the Tigers

Decatur Daily Sports Writer Ross Dellenger grades Auburn’s performance in Saturday’s 55-20 win over New Mexico State, giving the Tigers a letter grade from A+ to F in four categories.

OFFENSE: A-

Wow. 55 points. For the first time this season, the Tigers’ offense produced. The running game clicked, and Brandon Cox was back to his old consistent self.

DEFENSE: A-

After a sluggish start, the defense allowed just 117 yards in the second half, silencing a New Mexico State offense that ranked 11th in the nation. And the defense finally created turnovers (three fumbles and three interceptions).

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Kicker Wes Byrum missed his first extra point and had a field goal blocked. Not a terrific night for the squad, but Byrum returned as the kickoff specialist, booting four kicks for touchbacks.

THE BIG PICTURE:A

This is just what the doctor ordered: a whipping. The Tigers desperately needed this kind of game after back-to-back nail-biting losses that had sent the program into tailspin. The offense still needs to improve and the defense must begin games better.

Best and worst

Best way to confuse the home crowd: On the first series of the game, Aggies quarterback Chase Holbrook flipped the ball to a receiver on a shovel pass — one of the many unorthodox plays that the New Mexico State offense runs. The short pass fell incomplete, but Auburn fans assumed it was a fumble because of the odd-looking pitch. The public address announcer quelled the screams shortly after the ball was blown dead.

Best way to lose your job: Auburn receiver Robert Dunn heard a smattering of boos after he dropped a third-down pass that would have picked up a first down. Kodi Burns’ pass bounced off Dunn’s chest. Dunn also dropped a touchdown pass midway through the second quarter, as more boos poured down on him. Auburn has continuously rearranged its starting receivers because of dropped passes.

Worst way to blow a coverage: Auburn linebacker Chris Evans ran into the up-back referee during the first quarter while he was covering a New Mexico State receiver. The receiver, Nick Cleaver, was left wide open for a 44-yard pass completion that eventually led to an Aggie touchdown.

Worst way to capitalize on a successful fake punt: One play after the Aggies converted a fourth down with a 20-yard gain on a fake punt, they fumbled the ball back to Auburn with 1:57 left in the first quarter.

Worst way to show your school spirit: Fewer than 200 New Mexico State fans filled the northeast corner of Jordan-Hare Stadium. Normally, a visiting team will bring more than 2,000 fans. Of course, not all of Auburn’s visiting teams have to travel 1,400 miles to get here.

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Ross Dellenger
Auburn Beat

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