Originally created 09/05/97

Auburn topples Virginia



CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Dameyune Craig threw two touchdown passes to Karsten Bailey and scored on a 17-yard scramble as No. 16 Auburn defeated Virginia 28-17 Thursday in the season opener for both schools.

The nationally televised game was the first meeting between the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast Conference schools.

Craig got off to a shaky start, fumbling the opening snap and completing two of six passes in the first quarter.

But within the first three minutes after halftime, Auburn was ahead 21-9 as Craig and Bailey, who dropped an easy touchdown pass, made amends.

Craig hit Bailey on a crossing route, and Bailey caught the ball over his shoulder with a defender's hand in his face for a 57-yard scoring play. Bailey beat his defender deep again with 13:44 to play for a 77-yard touchdown reception.

Craig completed 12 of 19 passes for 247 yards. He was sacked on the Auburn 5-yard line after fumbling on the first play. Three plays later, Jaret Holmes' punt was blocked. Holmes managed to recover the ball in a pileup, and Virginia went ahead 2-0 with the safety.

The Cavalier defense returned only three starters from last year's 7-5 team, but the untested squad allowed Auburn no farther than it's own 35-yard line in the first quarter and forced the Tigers to punt twice from the end zone.

Virginia's offense, with four starters back, failed to take advantage of its good field position, however, and spoiled three scoring opportunities in the first half.

Aaron Brooks' 12-yard pass completion brought the Cavaliers to the 4-yard-line on their second possession of the game. On third and 2 feet, Thomas Jones fumbled an option pitch and Ryan Taylor fell on the ball.

Craig then directed a 98-yard, six-minute scoring drive. He completed passes of 19, 35 and 7 yards and ran for a 17-yard touchdown after finding no one open and sprinting out of the pocket to the corner.

On the first play of the second half, Brooks threw right into Taylor's hands, and the linebacker returned the interception 25 yards for a touchdown to put Auburn ahead 14-2.

But the next time Brooks put the ball in the air, he hit Terrence Wilkins at midfield, and the wide receiver sprinted in for a 77-yard TD.

The Tiger defense, nearly intact from last year's 8-4 team, then shut down the Cavaliers until there were six minutes to play and Brooks completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Germane Crowell. A 2-point conversion pass brought Virginia to within 28-17.

The Cavaliers had a chance to score again, but the drive stalled at the Auburn 29-yard line 1:47 left.

Brooks, last year's second-string quarterback, had a strong first half, completing nine of 13 passes for 75 yards. But in the second half, he threw one interception that was returned for a touchdown and nearly threw a half-dozen more.

Brooks completed 25 of 41 passes for 305 yards.

Virginia had 398 yards in total offense while Auburn had 324, and the Cavaliers had eight more first downs.