AUBURN, Ala. – They’d spent the past 45 minutes competing against each other with every bit as much enthusiasm as they had in their playing days. But seconds after the final play, the Auburn football lettermen gathered to sing the fight song and it mattered not whether their jerseys were orange or blue.
“Work, hard work!” the former players shouted, breaking their huddle after the Blue team defeated the Orange 20-18, thanks to Charles Olatunji’s 100-yard interception return for the game-winning touchdown.
“I took the chance, I ran the route I thought he was going to run, and I just jumped it. I saw nothing but green grass,” said Olatunji, who played for Auburn from 2004-09. “It’s fantastic. I hope we do it again and continue this.”
Ronnie Brown, captain of the Blue team, quickly put the bragging rights to use against Orange team captain Jason Campbell.
“It was a good effort, the guys had fun, it was a great day, the weather was awesome, we appreciate everybody coming out, supporting it,” Brown said. “The Blue team prevailed. We have to respect the Orange team. They did a great job, they gave us a hard fight.”
Returning from a knee injury, junior receiver Eli Stove made a 28-yard catch on A-Day’s opening play.
“It felt good. I can’t wait for the season, really,” said Stove, who had four receptions for 63 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown from Bo Nix.
“Really good to get Eli out there,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “Eli’s a guy, we missed him sorely last year. He’s an NFL type player, really worked hard on the intermediate routes, the deep routes. When he gets the ball in his hands, he can really do some things. Very excited to have him back.”
HEY, MR. D.J.
Freshman D.J. Williams, a mid-year enrollee, delivered the game’s longest run, a 29-yarder, to set up Anders Carlson’s 46-yard field goal. Williams led the running backs with 56 yards on 10 carries.
“He’s had a very good spring,” Malzahn said. “That one run he made had the wow factor. He broke a couple good tackles against good tacklers and had some acceleration and almost spun it out of there. He’s a really good runner. He showed a lot of toughness for a true freshman. It was good to see him out there making plays.”
With five touchdown completions, Auburn’s offense grabbed the A-Day spotlight, but the Tigers’ defenders were pleased with their unit’s improvement during spring practice.
“Every day we got better,” senior safety Daniel Thomas said. “Coach Steele even said it, we didn’t have any bad days. Every day we came out with good energy, good focus.”
“We got better as a team, we got closer,” said junior defensive back Noah Igbinoghene. “We all have the intangibles to do what we want to do on the field, I think that’s all that matters. We accomplished that this spring.”
“All of those guys behind us making those calls are making our job easier,” said defensive tackle Derrick Brown of Auburn’s linebackers.
On a warm spring afternoon, 41,489 Auburn fans attended A-Day to get a first glimpse of the 2019 Tigers.
“Very appreciative of the Auburn fans,” Malzahn said. “That’s really big, especially back-to-back weekends with Final Four and regional finals. It says a lot. Our players really appreciate that. Our coaches do, too. The weather was good and overall I think it was a very successful day.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jeff_shearer