Transfer Tray Matthews made his presence felt in Auburn's opener
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — You could hardly tell an Auburn player without an updated roster Saturday.
Nine true freshmen, six redshirt freshmen and eight other players made their Auburn debut in the season-opening win over Louisville.
Two true freshmen were in the starting lineup, for goodness sake, and so were three transfers.
"It was a great experience," said coach Gus Malzahn. "I told our team before the game we'll find out a lot about our team."
It was a learning experience, to be sure, on the way to a 24-0 lead, on the way to the 31-24 victory. The newcomers experienced the swings.
"The biggest thing is to keep those guys calm, just let them know they can still make plays, but the main thing is to keep them calm," said veteran defensive back Rudy Ford. "Prepare, and treat it like a practice when you get there on Game Day.
"They all did some good things, myself included, but I want to improve. It wasn’t a great game on my part, I want to play better. I felt like I could have done better things, and help the team be better in the secondary. We all had effort."
Auburn's first-time starters were true freshmen Chandler Cox and Tim Irvin, plus transfers Blake Countess, Austin Golson and Tray Matthews; and Carl Lawson and redshirt freshman Dontravius Russell.
Update: The true freshmen who played were Cox, Irvin, Montravious Atkinson, Byron Cowart, Carlton Davis, Jeremiah Dinson, Jeff Holland, Kerryon Johnson and Darrell Williams. The redshirt freshmen who played in their first game were Russell, Deshaun Davis, Kamryn Pettway, Josh Shockley, Keenan Sweeney and Andrew Williams.
Ford led Auburn with 12 tackles, picking up from last year when he had a team-best 93. Auburn's four sacks matched the best total from any game last year. The defense pitched a shutout for the first 2½ quarters.
Lawson and Matthews both missed time in the second half with injuries, and that was after Matthews intercepted a pass on the game's first offensive play.
"Those two bring a lot to the table, bring great energy and getting after the ball every time," Ford said. "When those guys go out, the next guy has to prepare to make it not that much of a change. When those guys are out, we have to adjust and the next person has to be accountable.”
"The biggest thing was to get the win, but looking back at it, there were some things we could have done better, myself included. We just have to prepare for next week, and get ready for our next opponent."
The next opponent is Jacksonville State at 11 a.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium, the day the university will officially flip the switch on its new and very-large video board.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine