The Tigers got the ball for a final do-or-die drive after forcing a fumble with 2:24 to play and the offense fell flat on its collective face like it did much of the day. Auburn finished the game with just 103 net rushing yards on 33 carries and managed to add just 109 more yards through the air despite completing 15-21 passes.
"Again, I feel like this was another example of us having a chance at the end of the game to win the game and we couldn't close the door on it," Coach Gene Chizik said.
"I thought the kids played hard," Chizik said. "I thought, without question, they felt keeping us close in the fourth quarter we would have a chance to win the game. They certainly...that was the feeling I?got on the sidelines that our kids were fighting all the way down to the end and again we fell short.
"It is kind of the same scenario we faced several other times, obviously, earlier in the year," the head coach added. "We are going to keep fighting, but again I am proud of the guys kept fighting and playing in the game, but at some point in time we have to figure out a way to get the game at that point and win it. We are obviously struggling with that."
To add injury to insult, Chizik said after the loss that senior tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who did not play, is injured and lost for the season. He said the same is true of freshman offensive tackle Avery Young.
Defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker, who had started the first six games, was out of action due to an injury, noted Chizik, who said that backups Erique Florence, Ryan Smith and Justin Garrett are injured on defense and backup tailback Mike Blakely is also injured. None of those players were dressed out for the SEC game in Nashville.
The contest was the second start of the season for junior quarterback Clint Moseley, who went the distance except for freshman Jonathan Wallace coming in to run wildcat plays. Moseley was unable to rally the Tigers for the winning score on the two-minute drill after the defense gave the team a chance to win when Corey Lemonier recovered a fumble by Vandy star running back Zac Stacy at the Auburn 31 with 2:24 to play.
Auburn kept the ball for seven plays, but moved just 24 yards. On the final four downs, Moseley threw an incomplete pass on first down, was sacked on second down and followed that with two more incomplete passes.
Auburn defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said he saw some good things at times, but said the Tigers need to be more consistent. For the game the Commodores rushed for 209 yards on 45 carries. Vandy added 173 yards passing as Jordan Rodgers hit 15-25 passes.
New starter at middle linebacker, freshman Cassanova McKinzy, finished with 12 tackles, including seven solos. Junior safety Demetruce McNeal was also in on 12 stops for the Tigers and made six solos.
Tre Mason goes airborne running the ball for the Tigers.
Asked what the Tigers can do to get in the win column, junior fullback Jay Prosch said, "Stick together. Guys can't fall off the deep end. We all have to pull together."
Defensive tackle Gabe Wright, who started in place of Whitaker, said, "We just have to keep fighting. We are right there. I like the effort the team showed in the fourth quarter and that is what we are going to keep doing."
Vanderbilt took The Opening kickoff and held the ball more than half of the quarter to take a 7-0 lead. On the way to the end zone the Commodores converted a fourth and one at the AU 29 and a fourth and two at the 17. Both were on running plays.
The touchdown, on the 16th play of the possession, came on a seven-yard run by Wesley Tate from the wildcat formation.
The Tigers only had the football for five plays in the first quarter. They got on the scoreboard with 8:10 left before intermission on a 27-yard field goal by Cody Parkey after the Tigers got great field position when the Commodores botched a fake punt. A bad pitch on the play was recovered by Ashton Richardson at the Vandy 37.
The Tigers had an earlier chance on a Vandy mistake when they recovered a fumble at their own 33 after Auburn challenged the ruling on the field with the officials ruling the ball carrier down before the ball came loose. Angelo Blackson forced the fumble and McKinzy was credited with the recovery. However, the Tigers couldn't take of the big play and punted the football back to the home team.
With 3:43 left in the half the defense made a big play for the Tigers. With fourth and inches at the Tiger 47, Vandy gambled with a handoff to with McNeal, Chris Davis and Jermaine Whitehead in on a group tackle for a one-yard loss.
C.J. Uzomah runs after a catch. He saw expanded playing time with Philip Lutzenkirchen out with an injury.
The Tigers quickly moved down the field on five play mixing the run and pass. Catches of 11and 24 yards by Blake set up a five-yard run by McCalebb to the one on first and goal and a one-yard score at left guard by Tre Mason with 1:21 to play.
Vanderbilt responded by moving 65 yards to tie the game on a field goal by Casey Spear from 30 yards out on the final play of the half to tie the game 10-10 at halftime.
Vandy scored the only points of the third quarter, moving 85 yards on their opening possession of the period after the Tigers had drove from their 19 to first and 10 at the Vandy 45 where they self-destructed when freshman Wallace lost the football, turning a nice gainer into a 10-yard loss.
On another good opportunity in the third quarter the Tigers moved to first and 10 at the Vandy 40 after a 34-yard run by Mason. The Tigers were soon at second down and 20 following two false start penalties and an incomplete pass. They punted on fourth down and 30 after Moseley was sacked for a 10-yard loss.
The Tigers managed to score on their next possession with a 39-yard field goal by Parkey, their first points in the final quarter since the opener. (Now the Tigers have been outscored just 62-6 in the final period this year.)
Parkey's points came with 9:55 left to play. The Tigers got two more possessions before the clock hit 0:00, improving Vandy's record to 3-4 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. Auburn is now 0-5 in the league and looking at the possibility of going winless in league play for the first time since 1980 with Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama left to play.