Auburn Tigers football coach Hugh Freeze poses with associate head coach Cadillac Williams at the Woltosz Football Performance Center in Auburn, Ala., on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022

Hugh Freeze keeps Cadillac, plans U-turn at Auburn

Hugh Freeze mastered the microphone with two talking points that always tickle the ears of Auburn fans: War Eagle and Nick Saban.

Freeze was introduced as head coach of the Tigers on Tuesday and spent the majority of his opening monologue praising and thanking interim head coach Cadillac Williams, also a former Auburn running back, for pulling personal pride and competitiveness back on The Plains.

Not long after the press conference, Williams released a statement confirming he was staying at Auburn as associate head coach.

“I accepted the position and am excited about working with him and learning from him,” Williams said, with a not-so-subtle directive for those fans who wanted him to remain head coach. “I ask that the Auburn family join me in supporting Coach Freeze and getting Auburn football back on the winning track.”

Auburn will reportedly pay Freeze $39 million over six years to turn around a program attempting to recover from back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1998 and ’99.

In the immortal words of Jerry Reed, the Tigers have a long way to go and a short time to get there.

Freeze follows Bryan Harsin, who was fired at midseason, and as of Tuesday had a commitment from only one of the top 15 rated seniors in the state. While Freeze said he’s anxious to get out of the blocks, Saban and Alabama are cruising to the lead, destined for yet another top-10 finish and top-5 recruiting class.

“Well, you don’t take this job if you’re not built to want that and I welcome that,” said Freeze, who beat Saban twice while Ole Miss head coach. “I want it, I want to be in that arena. I really, really, really enjoy that type of game. … I hope they’re a little nervous today.”

Auburn finished last in the SEC West the past two seasons.

Freeze arrives not from Ole Miss but Liberty, granted another life in coaching a marquee program despite being cited for 21 NCAA violations which led to 27 wins being vacated. That includes one of the victories over Saban and Alabama (2014).

Freeze, 53, resigned from Ole Miss and was out of the game for two seasons. He became the coach at Liberty in 2019. He won eight or more games in each of the past four seasons, including a 3-0 record in bowl games.

Freeze spent one season at Arkansas State, when the Red Wolves went 10-2, and five coaching Ole Miss. He was dismissed from Ole Miss prior to the 2017 campaign after it was discovered he made inappropriate calls to a female escort service from his school-issued cellphone.

“I don’t believe in deserving something. I believe in earning something,” Freeze said Tuesday. “And I do believe we fought to earn this. It’s been rocky at times. But you can become overcome with emotion because of — truthfully, I feel like, and this is no offense to another school or anything, but I feel like I’ve leapfrogged where I was at that time by being in this family and this culture here. And I loved my time there, but I see this as one of the top 10 football programs in the nation. And I believe that.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA; Liberty Flames head coach Hugh Freeze run onto the field before their game against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Auburn hires Hugh Freeze as next coach

Liberty coach Hugh Freeze has agreed to take over the same job at Auburn, according to multiple reports on Monday afternoon.

Freeze will replace Bryan Harsin, whom Auburn fired eight games into his second season as coach.

The former head coach at Arkansas State and Ole Miss has gone 34-15 in four seasons at Liberty, which enjoyed a quick rise as an FBS independent under Freeze and will join Conference USA next season.

Freeze, 53, became the coach at Liberty in 2019 and has won eight or more games in each of the past four seasons, including a 3-0 record in bowl games.

Freeze spent one season at Arkansas State, when the Red Wolves went 10-2, and five coaching Ole Miss. He was dismissed from Ole Miss prior to the 2017 campaign after it was discovered he made inappropriate calls to a female escort service from his school-issued cellphone.

Reports Saturday said that Auburn was targeting Lane Kiffin and Freeze for the vacant position. Kiffin said he intended to stay at Ole Miss, and soon after he and the Rebels had reportedly agreed to a contract extension with an average annual salary of $9 million.

Harsin compiled a 9-12 record at Auburn before his contract was bought out. Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, a former star running back for the program, was named the interim coach after Harsin’s 3-5 start and the Tigers finished 5-7, likely missing out on bowl eligibility for the first time since 2012.

–Field Level Media

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) throws the ball during the Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Alabama Crimson Tide defeated Auburn Tigers 24-22 in 4OT.

Title a longshot, No. 7 Alabama digs in for Auburn

No. 7 Alabama grasps the slimmest of College Football Playoff hopes with clenched fists at the ready for the annual rivalry game with Auburn on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

The Iron Bowl has been owned by the Crimson Tide in recent vintage with Alabama claiming six of the last eight meetings. But things are different for both sides this week.

Alabama (9-2) is ranked outside the Top 5 entering the Thanksgiving Weekend game for the first time since 2010 — then No. 9, the Crimson Tide lost 28-27 to No. 2 Auburn — but the Tigers are something more than an underdog at 5-6 and in sixth place in the SEC West.

“We’re excited to have this challenge in front of us,” Tigers interim coach Carnell Williams said. “We are fired up.”

Williams said the physical defensive front of Alabama, including the Tide’s LB corps, is as impressive as any he can recall.

“Ooh, they’re are physical bunch, big, long,” Williams said. “Will Anderson, he’s a handful. (Linebackers) get downhill and can run. We … have a challenge. But we are going down there to fight and compete.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban attempts to steer the Crimson Tide away from a third SEC loss to remain in position for a prime bowl.

“We’ve got to keep coaching our team to get it right on a consistent basis. This is one of the greatest rivalry games in college football. Most every team and rivalry games, this is part of their legacy in terms of how did they do in the rivalry games. This is one of the biggest ones. It means a lot to a lot of people in our state. It means a lot to us.”

Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young can move to second all-time on the Alabama passing yards list with 233 yards, which would pass John Parker Wilson and settle the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner behind AJ McCarron despite starting just 25 career games to date. Young has a TD pass in every game he has started, including a pair in last year’s four-overtime win over the Tigers.

Young said he’s delaying a decision about playing in any postseason games and the NFL draft until next week.

“Obviously this is huge. This is a huge game,” Young said. “This means a lot to me, to people in the entire state. To us as a team. This is a huge game. All I think about is today. How can I be the best version of myself today? To get ready to put myself in the best circumstances. How we as a team can do that. That’s all my head is focused on.”

Alabama has two losses by a total of four points: 52-49 at Tennessee and 32-21 at LSU in overtime. With Alabama, Saban is 6-1 all-time against Auburn at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

On the Alabama list of goals, beating Auburn is a constant but falls below the championship standard Saban established. He said that this week the focus and preparation need to be at a championship level even if the usual trophies aren’t on the table for the perennial contenders.

It could be the final SEC game for several Alabama stars who could choose to be recognized on Senior Day, including Young and Anderson, projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

“Will has done great for us. He helps other players play better. He does his job extremely well, and if they’re focusing on him a little bit more it gives others an opportunity to make plays,” Saban said. “He helps our team as much as any player on our team.”

Auburn beat Texas A&M (13-10) and Western Kentucky (41-17) to build momentum. The Tigers are leaning into the typical drumbeat of “Beat ‘Bama” this week and are also motivated to help make Williams’ position permanent.

But Saban said players didn’t have to publicly endorse Williams as their choice as head coach — it’s obvious in their play on the field.

“The energy, the enthusiasm, the way they compete to win — and he was the same way as a player, a great competitor,” Saban said of Williams.

–Field Level Media

Auburn Tigers interim head coach Carnell "Cadillac" Williams celebrates after the game as Auburn Tigers take on Texas A&M Aggies at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. Auburn Tigers defeated Texas A&M Aggies 13-10.

Auburn aims to ride momentum vs. high-powered Western Kentucky

It was a heart-warming spectacle in Jordan-Hare Stadium after Auburn’s 13-10 win last week over Texas A&M.

After all, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams had just posted his first victory as a head coach.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak by the Tigers (4-6) and kept the team’s slim bowl chances alive.

Auburn will try to start a winning streak when it hosts Western Kentucky (7-4) on Saturday. Williams is 1-1 as the Tigers’ interim coach; he took over the job when Bryan Harsin was fired on Oct. 31.

Senior captain Derick Hall made Auburn’s victory over Texas A&M that much sweeter when he presented Williams, one of Auburn’s all-time greatest players, with a souvenir.

“Coach, we want to thank you for the sacrifices, you coming in and stepping in for this team,” Hall said. “You serving and believing in us. Every single day you come to work to see us get better and Auburn get better and get it back to where it needs to be. I know you say it isn’t all about you, but tonight we want to present you with the game ball.”

Jarquez Hunter and Tank Bigsby each rushed for 121 yards to lead Auburn. Quarterback Robby Ashford completed only 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards and a score.

The Tigers’ run game could prove problematic for a Western Kentucky defense that allowed 165 rushing yards in a 45-10 win over Rice last week.

But the Hilltoppers are rolling offensively. The team ranks fourth in the country in passing offense (336.3 yards per game) and is 15th in scoring offense at 37.9 points an outing.

Leading that offense is quarterback Austin Reed, who has passed for 3,550 yards and 31 touchdowns, with seven interceptions, and trails only Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. by 90 yards for the most passing yards in the country this season.

“We just play our brand of football and go out there and put points on the board,” Reed said.

His favorite target has been sophomore Malachi Corley, who has 70 receptions for 953 yards and seven touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Conner Weigman (15) dives for a few extra yards as Auburn Tigers take on Texas A&M Aggies at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. Auburn Tigers lead Texas A&M 7-0 at halftime.

Auburn sends Texas A&M to sixth straight defeat

Auburn’s Jarquez Hunter and Tank Bigsby each rushed for 121 yards — combining for more yards than Texas A&M had in total offense — in a 13-10 victory Saturday that gave the visiting Aggies their first six-game losing streak in 50 years.

Hunter had 23 carries and Bigsby rushed 13 times in the combined 242-yard effort. Texas A&M, which last lost six straight games in the 1972 season, amassed just 215 yards overall.

Auburn (4-6, 2-5 SEC) won its first game under interim coach Cadillac Williams and snapped a five-game losing streak.

Texas A&M (3-7, 1-6) started to produce on offense late in the fourth quarter, leading to Conner Weigman’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Preston with 1:33 left.

The 80-yard scoring drive on seven plays took 1:24, but Texas A&M’s onside kick attempt failed and Auburn ran out the clock.

The Aggies punted on their first nine possessions of the game.

Weigman, who had 13 straight incompletions at one point, finished 14 of 36 for 121 yards. He ended his incompletion streak with a pass to Amari Daniels that resulted in a 3-yard loss.

Auburn took a 7-0 lead with 1:33 left in the first quarter on Jake Johnson’s 16-yard reception on a pass from Robby Ashford. The scoring drive (four plays, 62 yards) was aided by Bigsby’s 39-yard run, which preceded Ashford’s TD pass.

Alex McPherson, who missed a 54-yard field goal early in the third quarter, made a 34-yarder with 39 seconds left in the quarter to increase the lead to 10-0.

Texas A&M, which did not get past the Auburn 39 until the fourth quarter, started with its best field position after Edgerrin Cooper intercepted a pass by Ashford at the Tigers 39 with 12:40 remaining.

Weigman completed consecutive passes to set up Randy Bond’s 48-yard field goal that cut the lead to 10-3 with 10:48 left.

Texas A&M’s first turnover, a fumble by Weigman on a sack by Colby Wooden, resulted in Auburn getting the ball at the Aggies 32 with 5:34 left. That led McPherson’s 26-yard field goal with 3:02 remaining that increased the lead to 13-3.

–Field Level Media

Nov 5, 2022; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Robby Ashford (9) is defended by Mississippi State Bulldogs safety Collin Duncan (19) during the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State edges Auburn in OT, 39-33

Jo’quavious Marks’ 5-yard touchdown run in overtime lifted Mississippi State to a 39-33 victory over visiting Auburn in Southeastern Conference play on Saturday in Starkville, Miss.

After Auburn’s Anders Carlson missed a 38-yard field goal wide right to open overtime, Auburn’s J.D. Rhym was called for defensive pass interference. The penalty gave the Bulldogs a first down at the 5-yard line, setting up the game-winning score.

Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers went 42-for-59 passing for 357 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. Rara Thomas had six catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs (6-3, 3-3 SEC), who stopped a two-game slide.

Auburn quarterback Robby Ashford went 7-for-22 passing with no touchdowns or interceptions, in addition to running for 108 yards and two third-quarter touchdowns on 18 carries. Tank Bigsby added 89 yards and a score on 13 carries as Auburn (3-6, 1-5) dropped its fifth straight game and suffered its 11th loss in its past 14 games dating to last season.

Mississippi State’s Massimo Biscardi tied the game with a 44-yard field goal with 29 seconds left after Auburn’s Jarquez Hunter gave the Tigers a 33-30 lead with an 8-yard touchdown run with 1:05 remaining.

Auburn had trailed by 18 points in the second half and by 21 earlier in the game.

After Biscardi’s field goal, Ben Raybon’s line-drive kickoff hit Auburn up-man Sean Jackson, with Jett Johnson recovering the loose ball on the Bulldogs’ 48-yard line with 26 seconds remaining.

However, Biscardi’s 56-yard field goal attempt fell short as time expired.

Trailing 24-6 at halftime, Auburn pulled to within 24-12 on Ashford’s 20-yard run less than two minutes into the third quarter before his 18-yard touchdown run trimmed it to 24-19 with 4:18 left in the quarter.

Bigsby’s 41-yard burst down the sideline gave Auburn a 25-24 lead after a failed two-point conversion with 6:36 remaining.

But Rogers marched the Bulldogs 65 yards in eight plays, punctuating the drive with his second scoring strike to Thomas for a 30-25 lead after the missed two-point conversion with 3:49 left.

Auburn countered with Hunter’s 8-yard touchdown run before Biscardi’s 44-yard field goal ultimately sent the game into overtime.

Mississippi State led by as many as 21 points in the first half after Lideatrick Griffin’s 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave the Bulldogs a 24-3 lead with 8:12 left in the second quarter.

–Field Level Media

Auburn Tigers quarterback Robby Ashford (9) throws the ball as the Auburn Tigers take on Arkansas Razorbacks at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. Arkansas Razorbacks defeated Auburn Tigers 41-27.

Auburn’s Cadillac Williams to make head-coaching debut vs. Mississippi St.

Auburn interim coach Carnell “Cadillac” Williams will hope to salvage the Tigers’ season, beginning with a game at slumping Mississippi State on Saturday night in Starkville, Miss.

Williams, who was in his fourth season of coaching the Tigers’ running backs, replaced Bryan Harsin after he was dismissed on Monday after less than two seasons on the job.

“I truly believe Auburn has the potential to be a championship program once again,” Harsin wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “The resources, financial support and fan base are in place.”

The Tigers (3-5, 1-4 SEC), mired in a four-game-losing streak, went 9-12 under Harsin, with losses in 10 of their past 13 games dating to last season.

Mississippi State (5-3, 2-3) is coming off a 30-6 loss at then-No. 6 Alabama, the Bulldogs’ second straight loss after opening the season 5-1.

The Bulldogs and Tigers play contrasting styles of offense.

Led by Will Rogers, who has thrown for an SEC-high 2,555 yards and 23 touchdowns with just four interceptions, the Bulldogs average 410.8 yards per game but have rushed for a league-low 713.

Auburn has struggled throwing the ball. Robby Ashford has completed 52.6 percent of his passes for 1,299 yards and five touchdowns with five interceptions. Auburn averages just 217.3 yards through the air, ahead of only Missouri and Vanderbilt in the conference.

However, Auburn has been successful running the ball. That’s a major reason why Williams — a former All-American running back at Auburn — was promoted while offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau and tight ends coach Brad Bedell were among several assistants who were fired on Monday.

Tank Bigsby has averaged 5.3 yards per carry, rushing for 587 yards and seven scores on 110 carries. Ashford has added 397 yards and three touchdowns on 93 carries.

“Auburn’s full of a bunch of players who had offers all over the conference,” Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said. “Us and everybody else wanted those guys on their team.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; Auburn, Alabama, USA;  Auburn Tigers head coach Bryan Harsin looks at the scoreboard during the fourth quarter in Jordan-Hare Stadium.  The Tigers lost to the Arkansas Razorbacks 41-27. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn fires coach Bryan Harsin after 21 games

Auburn fired football coach Bryan Harsin on Monday after a tumultuous 21 games and a day before his 46th birthday.

The Tigers in the throes of a four-game losing streak, losing the past three by a combined 60 points. Harsin is done after a 9-12 record (4-9 SEC).

“Auburn University has decided to make a change in the leadership of the Auburn University football program,” the school said in a one-paragraph statement. “President Christopher Roberts made the decision after a thorough review and evaluation of all aspects of the football program. Auburn will begin an immediate search for a coach that will return the Auburn program to a place where it is consistently competing at the highest levels and representing the winning tradition that is Auburn football.”

An interim coach was not announced.

The move comes the same day that Auburn is expected to announce the hiring of John Cohen as its new athletic director.

Harsin reportedly is owed more than $15 million on the remainder of his contract, half due in 30 days.

Auburn hired Harsin to replace Gus Malzahn after the 2020 season. Harsin compiled a 69-19 record as the head coach at Boise State from 2014-20.

However, he was subjected to an internal inquiry in February. Auburn looked into the reasons behind the departure of about 20 players to the transfer portal. Five assistant coaches also left the Tigers, who finished 6-7 in Harsin’s first season with the program in 2021.

Since then, however, Auburn president Jay Gogue retired in May and the school mutually parted ways with athletic director Allen Greene in August.

Auburn travels to Mississippi State this week. The only wins for the Tigers (3-5) this season were against Mercer, San Jose State and Missouri, all in September.

–Field Level Media

Mississippi State's Athletic Director John Cohen speaks during MSU's 2021 Baseball National Championship ceremony at the Dudy Noble Field at Polk-Dement Stadium on Friday, July 2, 2021.

Msu Parade And Ceremony17

Reports: Auburn finalizing deal with John Cohen as new AD

Auburn is finalizing a five-year deal with Mississippi State’s John Cohen to become its new athletic director, ESPN reported Monday.

An official announcement is expected later Monday.

Cohen would replace Allen Greene, who left Auburn in August. The school’s chief operating officer, Marcy Girton, has been serving as AD on an interim basis.

Cohen is in his seventh year as AD at Mississippi State. Prior to that role, Cohen was the Bulldogs’ baseball coach in Starkville from 2009-16.

Greene and Auburn mutually parted ways with five months remaining on his five-year contract. Auburn hired Greene, then the athletic director at Buffalo, on Jan. 18, 2018. He was the first Black athletic director at Auburn.

Greene hired embattled football coach Bryan Harsin, who’s in his second season at Auburn and sports a 9-12 record. Harsin faced an offseason inquiry into why so many players transferred from the program and it’s widely expected that he will not be back for a third season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 1, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Sam Pittman prior to the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas aims to build momentum in matchup with Auburn

If Arkansas is going to salvage a once-promising season, the Razorbacks need to win against host Auburn in a pivotal Southeastern Conference game on Saturday in Alabama.

Both Arkansas (4-3, 1-3 SEC) and Auburn (3-4, 1-3) are coming off bye weeks. Each team last played on Oct. 15, with the Razorbacks getting a 52-35 road win over BYU — which snapped a three-game slide — and Auburn losing 48-34 at then-ranked No. 9 Ole Miss.

The Razorbacks have made strides under third-year coach Sam Pittman, who guided Arkansas to a 9-4 mark last year. The Razorbacks won 11 games the previous four seasons combined.

Arkansas, however, has dropped six straight meetings against the Tigers. If Arkansas is going to make a move in the SEC West, it starts with winning at Auburn for the first time since 2012.

“I think we are ready to try and make a run and we talk about it a lot,” Pittman said. “Of course, you have to win the next one to get on a run. I like where our team is and I think this is a big test for us.”

Arkansas will rely heavily on dual-threat quarterback KJ Jefferson, just as it has all season.

He’s completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 1,463 yards with 14 touchdowns and just one interception. He’s also rushed for 344 yards and four scores on 91 carries, which are all second on the Razorbacks behind Raheim Sanders (140 carries, 870 yards, seven TDs).

“KJ, now he’s different,” Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said. “He’s really big, really physical. I think he plays with a lot of poise.”

Auburn has dropped four of its past five games and was outscored by then-No. 2 Georgia and Ole Miss by a combined 90-44 its past two games.

The Tigers yield an average of 204.4 rushing yards per game, which ranks 119th nationally. Arkansas is ninth in rushing, averaging 240 yards per game.

Auburn quarterback Robby Ashford has completed just 47.9 percent of his passes for 1,014 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. But he’s second on the team with 310 rushing yards, trailing only Tank Bigsby’s 524 yards and six scores.

Bigsby rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against Ole Miss.

“Robby has a strong arm but he’s most dangerous when you have the receivers covered downfield,” Pittman said. “Bigsby, probably last week, he showed who he really is. They opened up a lot of holes for him and he made a lot of good runs.”

Auburn has won six straight against Arkansas.

–Field Level Media