Melvin Ray makes the one-handed catch for Auburn against Arkansas
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Melvin Ray is a football player first these days, but his old baseball skills came in handy Saturday.
The former outfielder in the Los Angeles Dodgers' organization made two more big catches in helping Auburn beat Arkansas 45-21, including one that reminded TV and fans of a player jumping, and robbing, a home run in front of the outfield wall.
One-handed, on a pass from Nick Marshall.
"I was not his first read, but I was running down the field and I always want to be available," Ray said. "He put the ball up where I could get it, and no one else could get it, and I just wanted to make sure I came down with it."
Ray did, increasing his career per-catch average along the way.
Consider this: He has seven catches in his career, and is averaging a whopping 26.4 yards per catch. He scored on a 49-yard pass from Jeremy Johnson on Saturday, caught the 28-yard pass from Marshall as well. Before that, we last saw Ray scoring on a 50-yard pass play in the BCS Championship Game.
Ray's eye-popping yards-per-catch numbers fit in nicely with Sammie Coates, who averaged 21.5 yards per catch last season, good for third in the nation; and the sudden 17.1-yard average of newcomer Duke Williams, who caught nine passes in his Auburn debut against Arkansas.
The receivers, and everybody else, will try to keep it going against San Jose State in Game 2 of the season at 6 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Ray has found the direct path to the end zone. His athletic career had a few detours before that, like when he originally signed to play football at Alabama, or the three years he spent in baseball's minor leagues. He spent his first year at Auburn mostly playing special teams, but, in the last two games, he has three catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Ray's touchdown catch Saturday was the result, he said, of Johnson reading the coverage. "Jeremy and I were on the same page," he said.
Coach Gus Malzahn said Ray has been improving.
"He had one of the best fall camps of anybody we had," Malzahn said. "He's just every consistent. It’s really good to see hard work pay off and he’s a real confident young man. He does a lot of dirty work and he’s very good at blocking on the perimeter. It was good to see him make a couple of catches. That one he made on third-and-3 that we threw back across the field was a very impressive catch."
The one in which he went high to snare it one-handed.
Ray will be looking to contribute more in a crowded receiving corps that features Coates, Williams and Ricardo Louis as starters. Ray has the big plays down. Now…
"It's one thing coach has preached on me since last season is consistency," Ray said. "I want to be a consistent player, whether it's blocking, or making one catch or two catches in a game, or none, I just want to contribute and make this offense run the way it is."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine