Tuberville had nothing to fear from Freeney by that time, however, earlier in the evening the cat-quick defensive end was doing major harm to Tuberville's football team.
Freeney was credited with just three tackles for losses and two quarterback sacks, but that doesn't begin to account for the damage he did to the Auburn offense that did very little well after going the distance for a score on its first possession. Freeney caused so much disruption that the Auburn offense seemed to lose poise and confidence with each possession. That led to five turnovers--four lost fumbles and one interception.
"With five turnovers, you are not going to win very often on the road," Tuberville said. "Number 54 controlled us on the line of scrimmage. We couldn't get to him. On offense, their quarterback made big plays for them when they needed him. He gave them an extra dimension we didn't think they had. Overall, we have a long way to go."
Senior defensive end James Callier talked to teammates after the game about the need to rally and bounce back for a conference game against Vanderbilt. He admitted the Tigers did not play well. "For some reason, we thought we were ready to play, but we weren't ready. Syracuse was ready. They played inspired football and we didn't."
Callier said the Auburn defense struggled against the trap plays and counters that Syracuse had not shown in earlier games. Auburn was expecting to see more option from the Orangemen, but the most damage was done on non-option plays by tailback James Mungro, who burned the visitors for 142 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. R.J. Anderson, the new starting QB, rushed for one score and netted 59 yards on 11 carries. The elusive signal caller managed to escape a variety of difficult situations without being sacked once in the contest.
Syracuse made Freeney a moving target on defense and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said the Tigers didn't do a good job of finding him at times and double-teaming as had been planned. Senior offensive tackle Kendall Simmons, who had the primary assignment on Freeney when he lined up at right end, said, "He is even faster than he looked on film. The moved him around a lot and he caused us a lot of problems."
Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni said Freeney's play was a key to the victory. "He's a special player. He had a great night. When you have that kind of momentumm going on defense, he was obviously a big help."
After winning the toss and deferring, Auburn forced a Syracuse punt after one first down and drove 84 yards for a touchdown on the opening possession. Jason Campbell showed his running ability by splitting the SU defense on a run from shotgun formation to avoid a big pass rush. The redshirt freshman was in the end zone, 44 yards downfield, before he was touched. That put Auburn up 7-0 with 7:18 left in the quarter as Auburn moved 84 yards on eight plays.
Syracuse matched that on the next possession, going 80 yards on 13 carries with a mixture of run and pass plays. Tailback James Mungro, who went past the 2,000-career yardage barrier on the play, scored from two yards out on first down.
In second quarter at the 10:44 mark, Syracuse had a chance to take the lead when Will Hunter's hit on Campbell and fumble recovery put the Orangemen in business at the Auburn 38. However, SU could make just one yard on three plays and punted the ball to the Tiger 10.
The Orangemen did cash in the second Campbell fumble. This one came with 6:14 to play from the shotgun formation. Mungro set up the TD by racing 34 yards on the first play. Four plays later, R.J. Anderson scored from nine yards out on a QB draw on a third and eight call following an illegal procedure penalty on the home team.
After a kickoff into the end zone, the Tigers took over at their own 20 with 3:40 to play and marched to the Syracuse 11 before stalling when Tim Carter dropped a third down pass in the end zone. Auburn came away without any points when Duval missed the 27-yard field goal attempt wide left with 31 seconds left in the half.
Casinious Moore was a bright spot for the Tigers.
Auburn's third turnover set up the touchdown that put the game out of reach. Justin Fetsko's fumble after a reception gave Syracuse possession at its own 29. Seven plays later, Mungro raced 21 yards at left end for his third TD of the game to make the score 28-7 with 10:06 left in the final quarter.
Another fumble by Campbell set up a 40-yard field by Justin Sujansky with 7:55 to play.
Auburn got the game's last score with 2:38 to play on a 21-yard screen pass from Campbell to reserve tailback Chris Butler. That 36-yard drive was set up by a 48-yard punt return by Joe Walkins.
Auburn outgained the home team 354-300 yards and averaged 5. per offensive play, but the turnovers were way too much to overcome against a Syracuse team that didn't fumble or throw an interception.
"I thought at times we ran the ball decent, but there really wasn't much we did well," Tuberville said.
Auburn's most serious injury is a knee sprain suffered by center Ben Nowland, who is expected to be out for a week. That means a start for true freshman Danny Lindsey. "Danny did fine," Tuberville said.
The Tigers return to practice on Saturday to prepare for a 6 p.m. road game at Vandy next week.