By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - On the bus ride from Montgomery to Auburn Saturday afternoon, Prince Tega Wanogho felt the apprehension that often accompanies something new.
“I was pretty nervous about it,” said Wanogho, one of five Auburn Tigers who made their first start in Saturday’s 41-7 season-opening win over Georgia Southern. “As soon as the game kept going, in the first half, I started getting confidence.”
Wanogho, a left tackle, and Mike Horton, a first-time starter at left guard, joined seniors Austin Golson, Braden Smith and Darius James on a line that helped Auburn rush for 351 yards on 53 carries, a 6.6-yard per carry average.
“It was a great experience for me,” Wanogho said. “I’ve been waiting for this for the longest time. Finally, it was there and I think I did a good job.”
Three years ago, Wanogho had never played football when he arrived at Edgewood Academy in Elmore, Ala., from Nigeria. After one season as a high school defensive end, Wanogho signed with Auburn, changing to offensive line after redshirting in 2015.
“I did great,” he said. “Just need to recognize the defense a little bit faster. Just need to get better.”
Auburn’s offensive line faces a stiff challenge Saturday at 6 p.m. CT when the Tigers visit defending national champion Clemson.
“They’re a great team,” Prince Tega said. “I was watching them on TV. I’m just looking forward to playing them. Their D line is pretty big, and they’re pretty strong, too. We need to just go out there and go play ball.”
Nine true freshmen made their Auburn debuts, as did sophomore defensive back Jamel Dean, who redshirted in 2015 and missed 2016 with a knee injury.
“It felt great,” said, Dean, who made a solo tackle. “It’s been almost three years since I’ve played in an actual game. Being out there for the first time, it was actually amazing.”
Like Prince Tega, Dean’s nerves calmed as the game progressed.
I was nervous at first, but when I started getting the flow of the game, that’s when my confidence built up,” Dean said. “I was excited, but I was just trying to take it one day at a time. I didn’t want to look further ahead. Make sure that I was able to focus at practice and understand the game plan that we had.”
After holding Georgia Southern to 78 yards, the fewest an Auburn opponent has generated in 32 years, the Tigers’ defense will try to be similarly stingy against a Clemson offense that scored 56 points against Kent State, its first game since replacing NFL first-round draft choice Deshaun Watson.
“We played great,” Dean said. “I feel like this game is going to help us later on down the road.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer
Ticket InformationA limited number of single-game tickets ($35) and Family Pack Tickets ($25) remain for the ULM game on Nov. 18. To purchase visit AUBTIX.com.