On the game’s opening possession against Arkansas State, he connected with a leaping Marcus Davis on an 18-yard strike in the end zone.
It wasn’t the only “first” on the play. For Davis, a true freshman, it marked his first career reception as a collegian.
Davis became the first Tiger to score a touchdown on his first catch since Kiehl Frazier did the same last season versus Louisiana-Monroe.
Auburn’s defense got a makeover Saturday, with new starters at three positions.
Junior Robenson Therezie started at the star position ahead of injured junior Justin Garrett (ankle) for the second straight week. Therezie had two interceptions and seven tackles in Auburn’s season-opening victory over Washington State.
On the defensive line, junior tackle Ben Bradley leap-frogged junior Gabe Wright, who was starting for injured senior Jeffrey Whitaker. Senior end Nosa Equae moved ahead of junior LaDarius Owens.
James Owens Award
Former Auburn safety Zac Etheridge received the second annual James Owens Courage Award before Saturday’s game.
Etheridge suffered a cracked vertebra and torn ligaments in his neck in a 2009 game against Ole Miss and wore a neck brace for six months. He came back to start for the Tigers in 2010, recording 69 tackles, intercepting three passes and returning a fumble 47 yards for a touchdown against Arkansas. The 2010 team won a national championship.
The James Owens Award was named for Auburn’s first black football player and awarded to him last season.
Former Cleburne County High star Rocky Hayes made his second start at cornerback for Arkansas State on Saturday and had an up-and-down night.
He nearly gave new Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall his first interception at Auburn, diving back and knocking down a pass in the second quarter. Later in the quarter, however, Hayes was defending on Marshall’s 68-yard touchdown bomb to Sammie Coates.
He had three tackles and a pass breakup in ASU’s season-opening rout of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Though Hayes remains involved in some offensive packages, he moved to cornerback this season after seeing time at running back as a true freshman in 2012.
He rushed 58 times for 538 yards and three touchdowns and caught 10 passes for 45 yards as a freshman.
He played in all 13 games in 2012 with four starts and entered this season as a Lindy’s preseason first-team All-Sun Belt Conference pick. He was also named Lindy’s “Best Athlete” in the Sun Belt.
He signed with Arkansas State in February of 2012, joining former Oxford offensive lineman Michael Flint in that class. Flint later transferred to Jacksonville State.
Auburn opens SEC play at home against Mississippi State on Sept. 14. Kickoff is 6 p.m. on ESPN2 and ESPNU.
Mississippi State handled Auburn 28-10 in Starkville in the second game of the 2012 season, and that game exposed weaknesses that Clemson was slow to catch in the season-opener in Atlanta. More than the Clemson game, the State game marked the beginning of the downhill slide that led to a 3-9 season and the firing of former Auburn coach Gene Chizik.
Much has changed at Auburn. Gus Malzahn is back, this time as head coach, and running an offense that suits Auburn’s personnel. Also, Kiehl Frazier, the quarterback who committed five turnovers at State in 2012, has moved to safety.
The Bulldogs are 1-1 after hammering Alcorn State 51-7 on Saturday.