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September 2, 2006

Cougs Fall, Slowly, To Auburn

The first game between Auburn and WSU went as most predicted it would - a decisive victory for the Tigers but not before a hard-fought effort from the Cougars fell short. Going into the game without three projected starters on the offensive and defensive line [Andy Roof, Matt Mullenix and Feveaea'i Ahmu] who were hurt and out for the game, Wazzu had to make the most of their early opportunities and they did just that in the first quarter.

The game began inauspiciously for Wazzu as quarterback Alex Brink was sacked on three of the Cougars' first four offensive plays. But the Wazzu offense eventually settled down and the much-maligned Cougar defense held Auburn to two field goals in the first quarter while the Cougars, led by the rushing of running back DeMaundray Woolridge, drove downt he field and took a 7-6 lead on a two-yard touchdown pass form Brink to receiver Jason Hill. It was the only lead Wazzu would have and it was short-lived as Auburn kicker John Vaughn hit a career-long 52-yard field goal on the Tigers next possession for a 9-7 lead. The cougars were unable to move the ball on their next offensive possession and Auburn scored another Vaughn field goal on their next series for a 12-7 lead.


Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges - a former Pac-10 offensive coordinator - was tossing screen plays at the Cougar defense all evening and the Tigers finally scored on one in the second quarter when running back Brad Lester ran it in for the touchdown and a 19-7 lead. On the next possession, Woolridge suffered a deep thigh bruise and missed the rest of the game. Surprisingly, the Cougars were nearly even with Auburn in rushing after the first half - 86 yards for WSU to 94 for the Tigers - but Brink was only 6-for-11 for 28 yards and a touchdown in the first half while Auburn's Brandon Cox tossed for 141 yards and a touchdown.

Auburn came out smoking in the second half as running back Kenny Irons scored on a 58-yard run on the first play of the half. Defensive lineman Aaron Johnson was injured on the play but was able to return later in the game. Brink's first series in the second half was ineffective and WSU coaches elected to bring in Gary Rogers for the next offensive series with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter. Rogers was able to ignite an offensive spark and led the Cougars on a six-play touchdown drive that culminated in a 50-yard TD pass to tight end Cody Boyd. Rogers went 5-for-5 for 85 yards in the drive as Wazzu cut the Auburn lead to 26-14.


After a combination third-down sack by Cougar defensive linemen Lance Broadous and Ropati Pitoitua, WSU looked poised for a comeback, but a well-timed fake punt by Auburn grabbed the momentum back for the Tigers - and although they were not able to score on the series [Vaughn missed a field goal attempt], they were able to stave off the Cougars' momentum.

By the time the fourth quarter began, Auburn had regained the momentum and began doing what they do best - authoritatively run the ball. The Tigers ran the ball for 16 out of 17 plays in the fourth quarter - and Brink threw an interception - as Auburn added two touchdowns to put the game out of reach with a final score of 40-14..




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