Trotter, Holland help Tigers clinch win
By KALA BOLTON / Staff Writer
AUBURN — With the help of Pelham High School graduate and Auburn sophomore linebacker Jake Holland, the Tigers’ defense stopped the Mississippi State University football team short in its pursuit of victory in Jordan-Hare Stadium Sept. 10.
One yard short, to be exact.
On the final play of the game, Tigers’ sophomore backup safety Ryan Smith stopped the Bulldogs’ senior quarterback Chris Relf just short of the goal line to clinch the win for Auburn.
“Our mentality going into it was they were not going to score,” Holland said. “This week our whole deal was playing for each other. I feel we did that very well and got the last stop.”
The Tigers (2-0, 1-0) beat No. 16 Mississippi State (1-1, 0-1) 41-34 in the Southeastern Conference play opener for both teams, extending the Tigers’ winning streak to 17.
The Bulldogs had 531 yards of total offense, but it wasn’t quite enough.
“Just coming down to the last play and fighting, scratching and clawing for every inch you have a heavyweight fight, 15 rounds, last man standing, that’s what you have to do to be able to win these games,” said Auburn head Coach Gene Chizik.
Holland recorded five tackles while junior quarterback Barrett Trotter, a Briarwood Christian School graduate, completed 16-of-21 passes for 146 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Thompson High School graduate and current Bulldogs running back Adrian Marcus recorded one carry for 1-yard.
The Tigers went up 14-0 to start following sophomore Michael Dyer’s 35-yard touchdown run and sophomore Demetruce McNeal 43-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“We had a good game plan from the start,” Holland said. “I felt we played the option well. Chris Relf is a mobile quarterback but I felt we contained him pretty well.”
Mississippi State answered on a 40-yard touchdown run by sophomore LaDarius Perkins and a 15-yard touchdown pass from Relf to junior Brandon Heavens, tying the game to close out the first quarter.
After junior Johnthan Banks picked off a Trotter pass, returning it 27-yards for a Bulldogs touchdown, Trotter fired a 46-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Emory Blake. Dyer gave the Tigers back the lead with 4:51 remaining in the second quarter on a 2-yard touchdown run.
Both teams closed the half with field goals. Bulldogs senior Derek DePasquale hit a 27-yard field goal with 40 seconds remaining in the half, and Auburn sophomore Cody Parkey nailed a 43-yard field goal, bringing the Tigers lead to 31-24 at the half.
“You know, we really wanted to come out and establish the running game we struggled last week so I feel like we really improved running the ball in the first half,” Trotter said. “To put 31 points on them in the first half seemed like the longest half in my life to be honest. But I think we did a lot of things better this week than we did last week.”
DePasquale and Parkey each hit field goals during the third quarter, and Trotter’s 10-yard pass to junior Philip Lutzenkirchen put the Tigers up 41-27 with 14:03 remaining in the game.
Bulldogs senior Vick Ballard scored on a 3-yard touchdown run with 4:51 remaining, but the goal-line stand put up by the Tigers’ defense on Mississippi State’s final drive sent the Bulldogs home empty-handed.
Blake caught seven passes for 108 yards and one touchdown while Dyer totaled 150 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Junior Onterio McCalebb carried the ball 11 times for 68 yards and caught four passes for a total of 24 yards.
Junior Daren Bates totaled 12 tackles, senior Neiko Thorpe had 11 stops and junior Nosa Eguae racked up nine tackles.
“Are we a great football team right now? No. Not even close,” Chizik said. “But the identity of the team is starting to form week by week because they will fight. They will not look at the scoreboard, and that’s been one of the trademarks that we’ve really tried to instill in these guys that we are not looking for the scoreboard until it says 0:00 because everything else in-between does not matter.”