College football flashback: Auburn QB Jeff Klein leads comeback win over Central Florida in 1999

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This article appeared in The Birmingham News on Nov. 7, 1999.

Worthy of praise
Klein passes for career-high 270 yards in win

By Ed Odeven
News staff writer
AUBURN — Much like his Auburn teammates, redshirt freshman quarterback Jeff Klein has experienced more downs than ups this season.

He managed to change that — at least for now — with a touchdown pass Worthy of celebration.

Klein’s 16-yard TD strike to junior Reggie Worthy triggered the Tigers’ come-from-behind 28-10 victory over Central Florida Saturday afternoon.

On a crucial third-and-goal from the Knights’ 16, Worthy sprinted to the back of the end zone and leaped to make the go-ahead score, giving the Tigers a 14-10 lead with 3:41 left to play. Golden Knights junior cornerback Davin Bush, a 5-foot-8 defender, was right there but was up against a height mismatch with Worthy, a 6-footer.

Worthy said the identical short post pattern was run successfully earlier in the game.

“It was a play we had called a couple of times during the game,” said Worthy, who made three receptions for 39 yards. “We finally got on the same page. He (Klein) made a good throw, and I was able to make the catch. I feel good because it’s my first touchdown catch.”

Junior QB Ben Leard was sidelined while recovering from a concussion he sustained in the loss to Arkansas a week ago. In his place, Klein made his fourth start of the season and threw for a career-high 270 yards, completing 19 of 31 passes and two touchdowns, while tossing two interceptions.

Due to the Tigers’ surprising success running the ball, including an impressive effort by tailback Heath Evans on the game’s opening drive (six rushes for 39 yards), the Golden Knights’ defensive schemes were unable to focus solely on Klein.

“(Opponents) usually put a lot of people back deep,” said Auburn receiver Travaris Robinson, who turned a short screen into a 20-yard TD reception on the game’s opening drive. “But they were putting a lot of people in the box” near the line of scrimmage.

Auburn tight end Lorenzo Diamond endorsed the Tigers’ nouveau-balanced attack.

“I think we’ve been missing that all season long,” he said. “I think if we had him (Heath Evans) back there all season, we’d have been much stronger (passing).”

Although the improved rushing attack made Klein’s job easier, the rookie made some mistakes:

* He fumbled the game’s opening snap.

* He tossed two interceptions, but the Golden Knights were unable to score on either ensuing possession.

* Several passes were off target or were thrown to the wrong receiver.

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville said, “He’s real composed, sometimes too much.”

However, in the fourth quarter, Klein was reminded by his coach to throw down field after he already botched a few third-and-longs with too-short throws.

“We told him don’t throw it for two yards,” Tuberville said.

In crunch time, Klein’s poise was never in question.

“I think the receivers helped him today, the offensive line helped him,” Tuberville said.

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