Second Half Flurry For Auburn Offense The Key

Behind the steady play of Brandon Cox and the powerful running game

Fayetteville, Ark.–It wasn't the greatest of nights for a quarterback, just 17-26 for 203 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions, but the job Brandon Cox did on offense was easily enough for Auburn to get the job done Saturday night in a 34-17 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Arkansas' Houston Nutt didn't think too much of the sophomore's performance after saying "The third quarter just got away from us," Nutt says. "You have to give them credit. Our offense was sputtering and they took advantage. Brandon Cox has a great supporting cast". Not exactly the way Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges remembers it though.

"I think it's a great deal for him because this was really the first time he's come back," Borges says of Cox. "We tried to come back against Georgia Tech, but we took a little different approach this time. We didn't put it all on him to come back. What we did ask him to do, what we needed him to do, he did it well. I think it's a real shot in the arm for him. It's a shot in the arm for our team. To be on the road and behind and come back and win like we won in a convincing fashion, when it's all said and done that's a pretty good deal for us."

Cox played mistake-free football in the second half as the Tigers roasted the Hogs.

Make no mistake, it was a game for the ages on offense for the Tigers as they dominated the Razorbacks for the better part of three quarters the old fashioned way, they earned it up front. Behind a line that wanted the ball left on the ground, Auburn pounded Arkansas for 31 second half points on the way to the win. Borges says it was all about balance and rhythm for the offense in the second half after a first half struggle against the blitz packages of the Hogs.

"The first half we just weren't hitting on all cylinders," Borges says. "We should have had more points. I felt like we should have done better than we did and I take responsibility for that too. I think there were probably a few bad play calls in there that put us in some predicaments. For the most part, when it was all said and done, our balance was just what we were looking for. We had over 200 rushing and over 200 passing.

"The run game is no different than the pass game," he adds. "You've got to get a rhythm. You've got to feel it a little bit. You've got to feed the back the ball, but you can't run every play. You've got to mix some passes in there because that's really the best time to mix a pass in there, when you're running the ball.

"As a playcaller you kind of have to talk yourself into it ‘we just ran for seven yards and I'm going to call a pass?' then you throw it incomplete and you want to commit hari kari. Be that as it may, running the ball is as rhythmic as passing the ball and I felt like our offensive line was feeling it. They were feeling it, coming off the ball, and Kenny Irons was running the football in there like he meant it."

Even though the Tigers through the ball some in the second half, for the most part it was all about the play of the offensive line and the running if Irons. Setting career highs in rushing attempts with 33 and yards with 182, Irons carried the Auburn offense in the third quarter with starting tailback Brad Lester out with a pulled groin. Borges says that the play of Irons reminded him of another runner the Tigers had not too long ago.

"He reminds me of Cadillac (Carnell Williams) the way he runs the ball," Borges says. "He's a tough kid. Brad Lester is too. Kenny had been the starter, and I thought Tre Smith did a heck of a job filling in. We've got to get Brad back, I don't know what the severity of his injury is."

On the night Auburn finished with 436 yards of total offense with Lester adding 32 on the ground and Smith 22 with a touchdown. Through the air Devin Aromashodu had a big game with 98 yards and a touchdown on six catches. Ben Obomanu added 49 yards on three catches while Cooper Wallace had 36 yards on three receptions and Anthony Mix 11 yards on two grabs.

It will be up to the entire offense to come through again next week when the Tigers travel to Baton Rouge to face the LSU Tigers. For Cox it will be yet another test as they will load up the box and force the sophomore to play well. Borges knows that's what he can expect, but he also expects an improved player next Saturday night as Auburn looks to keep in the race for Atlanta.

"I think you learn from every game," Borges says. "This kid has improved every week. He did some things this week better than he did last week. He's still going to make errors, he hasn't played like Jason Campbell had played, so there are going to be some errors."

Saturday night in the Ozark Mountains there were errors, but there were far outweighed by good plays as the Tigers left what was formally a shop of horrors with a big smile and a big win.

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