Auburn, Ala.--It's hard to look at the numbers Auburn's offense turned in Saturday night in the season opening game against Washington State and not be impressed unless of course you're a member of Auburn's offense. Despite scoring 40 points and racking up 484 yards of total offense in an easy victory every offensive player to a man spoke of the lack of finish on the offense and how that must improve before next week.
"We moved the ball well but in the first half we settled for four field goals," quarterback Brandon Cox says. "That's not what you want to do but we did come away with points. We want to finish. We're all about finishing around here and that was our goal coming out of halftime. I think we wore them down and started finishing the second half. We'll definitely work on that next week."
Quarterback Brandon Cox had a solid night in the season opener.
The numbers are staggering. Running back Kenny Irons rushed for 183 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown. Cox was 11-18 for 191 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers held the ball for almost 10 minutes more than Washington State. Everything pointed towards a solid performance for the offense but coordinator Al Borges says there were plenty of things that weren't good and it gives them something to spend some time on in practice this week.
"We had too many field goals," Borges says. "I think some of it is the result of a first game. Our third down conversions is something we've been so good at. We just were not very good on third down particularly when we got into the red areas. That's something we're going to work our tails off on. We're going to be good on third downs. We've been good and we're going to continue to be good because we're going to work until we are good.
"It's nice to come out and move the ball," Borges adds. "We've just got to do a better job of finishing drives. We had some opportunities. We were kicking field goals when we should be kicking extra points. You have to give them some credit because they can run on defense and they're well coached. They do a good job. It's not all our inefficiency. They played pretty well. It's still disappointing to kick that many field goals."
Finishing the night just 3-12 on third downs, Auburn cost itself the chance to dominate the game completely in the early stages. Following a halftime chat with Borges the domination would eventually come though thanks to the running game behind Irons. On the half's first play Irons took the handoff and raced left. Turning the corner he raced 58 yards for his only touchdown on the night. It was the beginning of the end for the Cougar defense as Auburn rushed for 199 yards following the break to put the game away. Borges says much of the credit is because of an adjustment made at the half.
"We just decided in the second half we would line up in a formation we call Thunder-Slot," Borges says. "We just felt like it gave us some possible advantages. Fortunately the first play hit. Kenny made a heck of a run. We got him started pretty good but he did the rest."
One positive in the game was the relative smoothness of the offense as a whole the entire night. With no turnovers and just one penalty on the night, Borges says that he can't remember a first game that came off cleaner than Saturday night and he'll take it despite the lack of finish in the first half.
"I can't tell you how much better I feel about the overall performance," Borges says. "Taking care of the ball in the first game that well is really something to be proud of because generally in your first game you're a little bit sloppy. I think it's a testament to the experience of our quarterback and running back and it was a great job by the offensive line of giving him some room to run. It's nice to not have a turnover in the first game. I haven't had too many of those."