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Big plays for Auburn offense in spring game

AUBURN, Ala. | Neil Caudle knows the big plays and points Auburn's offense put up in Saturday's spring game came with a caveat.

Caudle and fellow quarterback Kodi Burns were facing a defense that was a mix-and-match group with a number of key players out or limited with injuries.

The Tigers offense produced 70-yard runs by newcomer Onterio McCalebb and receiver Terrell Zachery — on an end-around. Ben Tate only had four carries, but they produced 72 yards and touchdowns of 46 and 9 yards on his first two series. Darvin Adams had a 45-yard catch and Mario Fannin a 41-yarder.

To Caudle, it was a solid debut for offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's no-huddle, shotgun attack.

"I know the defense is banged up and they didn't have all of their guys," said Caudle, who passed for 161 yards and two touchdowns. "But it's a big confidence-builder for us to go out there and hang up that many points on them."

How many points? The offense, which scored six touchdowns, won 57-31 under the scoring system of new coach Gene Chizik that rewarded big plays — offensively and defensively — and extended drives along with TDs. The starting offense went against the second-team defense for much of the game.

An announced crowd of 45,381 showed up for Chizik's public debut at Jordan-Hare Stadium and got a small taste of Malzahn's much-anticipated offense, which ran 55 plays in the 90-minute scrimmage. What they didn't witness was the conclusion of the quarterback battle or anything beyond the base offense and defense.

Chizik and Malzahn both said Caudle and Burns will continue to jockey for the starting spot in fall camp.

"We're looking for guys to be able to move the football team, and not turn the ball over and just be great managers of our offense," Chizik said. "For the most part, that happened today.

"We've got a long way to go, so there's not going to be any decisions made on who's the guy and who's not the guy. We know that this thing's probably going to play out a good bit. It was good to see both of them have a little bit of success today."

Caudle completed 11-of-16 passes, including a 4-yard touchdown to Fannin and a 34-yarder to Adams. Burns was 3-of-8 for 45 yards, and neither threw an interception.

Redshirt freshman Barrett Trotter had also been in the mix for most of the spring, before his snaps were reduced to give the upperclassmen more practice repetitions. Trotter then tore a knee ligament in Thursday's practice.

The receiving corps produced a few big plays — two of them off deflections — and dropped some passes. Adams gained 103 yards on four catches while Fannin had four receptions for 71 yards and also had a couple of carries in limited time in the backfield.

Tate felt like the offense would continue to produce big gains in the fall after struggling much of last season.

"In order to have big plays, you have to take shots sometimes," he said. "With coach Malzahn, we're going to take shots. When you take shots, the chances of making a play goes up. That's what this offense is about."

Burns started off fast going against the second-team defense. His first two series ended with Tate's TD runs.

"After that, it was so-so," Burns said. "I felt I could have done a lot better but I'm not upset with my performance. I know it's just some little things that I've got to get fixed."

Lineman Michael Goggans was the defensive MVP, while Tate won offensive honors and placekicker Wes Byrum was selected the top special-teamer. Byrum made a 46-yard field goal and had a 51-yarder at the end fall just short.