Auburn, Ala.--Sophomore defensive end Michael Goggans had a bad case of the jitters going into Auburn’s season-opener against Louisiana-Monroe Saturday.
It would be his first career start, and he was walking a fine line between really nervous and downright scared.
“Yeah, I was nervous,” he admitted. “If you ain’t nervous, you ain’t ready to play.”
As it turned out, he had nothing to worry about as his Tigers opened the season with a 34-0 victory over ULM. In the process he was named Defensive Player of the Week by the Auburn coaching staff.
On the first offensive play of the game by the Warhawks, Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman slammed into quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster as he was preparing to throw and forced him to fumble. The ball fell to the ground in front of Goggans.
“It was like a dream or something,” he said. “I almost didn’t know what to do. There was the ball and there was the end zone.”
Goggans’ instincts took over. He quickly scooped up the football and dashed nine yards into the end zone for the touchdown.
Not bad for the first snap of your first career start.
Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoades said it all happened so fast. “It was bam, bam and we were in the end zone,” Rhoades said.
The touchdown was just what he needed, Goggans said. “It got my confidence up and got the jitters out,” he pointed out. “It’s a defensive lineman’s dream to recover and fumble and score. I wasn’t even waiting on it. I wasn’t thinking we would start the game that way, but Antonio came out and got the sack, and I was able to scoop and score.”
Goggans, a former tight end, knows what to do with a football in his hands.
Auburn’s defense maintained the momentum begun with Goggans’ score and held Louisiana-Monroe scoreless the entire game.
While Auburn’s defense was pitching the shutout, Auburn’ s offense was struggling.
Goggans said he was surprised the offense sputtered like it did. The Tigers struggled to throw the ball and didn’t score an offensive touchdown until the third quarter. However, the pressure was taken off the offense by the special teams.
Later in the first quarter, Robert Dunn returned a Louisiana-Monroe punt 66 yards for the score.
“We kind of came out thinking the offense was going to have a big start, but they didn’t,” Goggans said. “But we came out and helped them and special teams helped them. We were on the field a lot, but it’s like that sometimes. They may need to help us out one day.”
Goggans said the transition to Rhoads’ new defensive system hasn’t been overwhelming, but it hasn’t been easy either.
“It’s coming along real good,” he said. “We’re communicating better and we are progressing, but we need to get better. On defense, we are always going to go out and play hard, but we can always get better.”
Antonio Coleman, a veteran of the defense, contends the Tigers need to improve on both sides of the football to prepare for game two as Southern Mississippi visits Jordan-Hare Stadium for an 11:30 a.m. kickoff on Saturday. “Southern Miss is a lot better ball club,” he said. “We’re going to have to play better.”
2008 Inside the Auburn Tigers Football Guide
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