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Auburn defenders Brandon Haley, left, and Courtney Harden, center, battle Tennessee Tech’s Derrian Waters for the ball in Auburn on Saturday.
AP Photo by Dave Martin
Auburn defenders Brandon Haley, left, and Courtney Harden, center, battle Tennessee Tech’s Derrian Waters for the ball in Auburn on Saturday.

Reserves take active role in AU’s cakewalk

By Ross Dellenger · 340-2460

AUBURN — Walter McFadden has never started a game in his Auburn career. But that didn’t matter Saturday as he raced down the sideline, on his way to a 93-yard interception return for a touchdown, the third longest in school history.

The reserve cornerback’s score may have been the most exciting play in Auburn’s 35-3 homecoming win over Tennessee Tech on Saturday afternoon.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville spoke last week of needing a “lull” in the schedule after 10 weeks of grueling, last-minutes games. He got it Saturday against the Golden Eagles of the Football Championship Subdivision — formerly Division I-AA. “We tried to rest as many as we possibly could,” said Tuberville, whose team travels to Georgia on Saturday before facing Alabama on Nov. 24.

“We got a chance to look at a lot of the young guys.”

One of those was McFadden, who had two tackles entering Saturday’s game.

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AP photo by Todd J. Van Emst
Auburn defender Walter McFadden celebrates after his 93-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The Tigers (7-3) jumped out to an early 21-3 lead, scoring easily on their first three drives of the game. Midway through the second quarter, the backups filed onto the field.

That included McFadden, who picked off Tennessee Tech quarterback Lee Sweeney as the Golden Eagles (4-6) were looking for that elusive touchdown.

With 10:21 left in the game, McFadden turned them back.

“I saw nothing but open green field,” the sophomore said after the game, with TV camera lights and recorders in his face. “I’ve been watching the older guys. (The receiver) was running slants all night so I just jumped it this time.”

When McFadden finally got to the end zone, he did a dance that “looked better than Deion Sanders,” said fellow cornerback Jerraud Powers of Decatur, whom McFadden usually backs up.

The dance got him a personal foul penalty and disciplinary runs in practice Sunday, but “I’m going to have to just take that,” he said, grinning.

Auburn’s fears of repeating Michigan’s blunder earlier this season — the Wolverines lost to Appalachian State, also of the Football Championship Subdivision — were put to rest quickly.

Quarterback Brandon Cox completed his first seven passes and finished 9-of-11 passing for 167 yards and a touchdown, leading the team to those three early scores.

Following Ben Tate’s 2-yard plunge into the end zone to open the game, Cox hit fullback Carl Stewart out of the backfield for 55 yards. A play later, Stewart scored from 2 yards out.

Cox capped his short day with a 16-yard touchdown pass to receiver Robert Dunn, who returned from a two-game suspension.

“We came out and took care of business early,” said Dunn, whose day got even better when backup quarterback Blake Field found him for another score in the third quarter.

It was Dunn’s first two touchdown receptions of his career.

“It was a great feeling,” Dunn said.

In 13 years of being a head coach, Tuberville can’t ever recall using four quarterbacks in a game. Backups Kodi Burns, Blake Field and Neil Caudle saw action, but it was Field who shined, as Burns struggled, badly missing all four of his attempts.

“He looked off-balance,” the coach said. “You could tell he was a little bit nervous, but that’s to be expected.”

Field certainly wasn’t nervous. The junior completed 6 of 11 passes (two drops) for 92 yards and led the reserves downfield to start the third quarter, capping the drive with the touchdown to Dunn.

“I made a few mistakes,” Field said. “Other than a couple audibles, I think I did really well for not playing all season.”

Like most of the players running about Pat Dye Field on Saturday, the backup quarterback shook off the rust of riding the bench.

McFadden followed suit. He literally shook it off as he danced about in the end zone following his score. “I get that from my brother,” said McFadden, whose brother Bryant McFadden plays cornerback for the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. “He did a dance two weeks ago. I didn’t know what it was. It was a bad dance. I kind of tried to do a dance just for him.”

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