Auburn 31, Louisiana-Monroe 28: Warhawks run out of magic

Heading into halftime of Saturday’s game, it felt like Auburn had finally put a dagger in the plucky Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks.

Just a week earlier, 30-point underdog ULM had knocked off the Arkansas Razorbacks in the biggest upset of the season. The Warhawks appeared to be going into the locker room tied at 14 with the Tigers.

However, when Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier’s Hail Mary throw nestled into the arms of receiver Sammie Coates on the final play of the first half to give the Tigers the lead, it looked as though ULM might remember it wasn’t getting paid about $1 million for the second weekend in a row to come in a put up a fight. Auburn tacked on yet another score early in the third quarter, so the chances that the Warhawks would find themselves in overtime again appeared slim.

And once again, junior quarterback Kolton Browning (28-46 attempts, 237 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) was magnificent in the fourth quarter, directing two scoring drives to knot things up on the scoreboard at the end of regulation. This time, however, ULM’s upset bid fell short, as a field goal on its opening possession appeared to be tipped by a defender, sending the try veering off-course.

Auburn and coach Gene Chizik needed the win badly after starting the year with losses to Clemson and Mississippi. Even so, the Tigers will have to show rapid improvement on both sides of the ball in the coming weeks if they have any intentions of earning a bowl bid. Offensively, Auburn’s ground game sustained the Tigers all game, pounding out 255 yards. Frazier, on the other hand, continues to play like a square peg in a round hole in first-year offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler’s scheme.

Just as concerning, ULM didn’t need smoke and mirrors to hang on the Plains. The Warhawks engineered multiple prolonged drives to paydirt. All four scoring drives started off at least 59 yards from the Auburn end zone, and three went at least nine plays.

ULM, on the other hand, has established itself as the top team in the Sun Belt heading into conference play.