Athens, Ga.--Playing without the SEC’s leading rusher Kamryn Pettway because of a quad injury and with starting quarterback Sean White less than 100 percent, the Auburn Tigers knew they were going to need to do some different things to be successful on offense.
Late in the first quarter the Tigers showed that diversity with White, John Franklin, Kerryon Johnson and Chandler Cox all taking snaps as part of a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead on the Georgia Bulldogs.
Nobody could envision that before the day was done that would total almost half of Auburn’s 164 yards of total offense for the day and nearly a third of the 54 total offensive plays for the Tigers.
Leaning on Johnson early to get the job done, Auburn led by a touchdown at the break after rushing for 107 yards on 24 carries. Inexplicably the Tigers ran the ball just eight times in the second half while throwing 14 passes and never went back to something that Cox said they felt like was working well.
“We did,” Cox said of building some momentum with the early drive. “The biggest thing for us is working together as an offense, 11 guys on 11 guys. That’s what we were doing that drive and it helped us.”
Banged up in the fourth quarter on an Isaiah McKenzie punt return, Cox said he was good to return to the game but by then the Tigers were in a throwing mode and it wasn’t part of his plan.
The plan overall was puzzling to say the least with the Tigers junking almost the entire first-half plan. After coming out throwing the first possession of the second half with a pick-six for Georgia that changed the momentum, Auburn never seemed to get back in a groove.
People will complain about the playcalling or throwing too much, but Cox said in the end it’s their job to execute and that didn’t happen.
“It was just part of the gameplan, part of Coach (Rhett) Lashlee’s plan and Coach (Gus) Malzahn’s plan,” Cox said. “We just had to go with it. We trust them and that’s what they trust us with, so we did it.
“It’s hard to think about that with just the success we’ve had this season,” he added of being shut down in the second half. “To know that we didn’t get a first down is kind of heartbreaking. But that’s not on the coaches, that’s on us. It’s about the players. They’ve got a plan and we’ve got to execute that plan. That’s what we didn’t do tonight.”
With their dreams of an SEC Championship now gone the Tigers will have a long week to think about what might have been before facing Alabama A&M on Senior Day at Jordan-Hare Stadium next Saturday. Cox said the game and performance are going to stick with him and this team for a while.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking. I’m hurting. The team is hurting. I’m sure Auburn fans are hurting. The whole nation of Auburn is hurting. We didn’t come here to do this.
“We didn’t come here to lose, we came here to win. It’s never fun losing, but it’s something we can learn from and we’ve got to move on. It’s like life, if something hits you then you’ve got to keep moving forward.”