Starkville, Miss.—It wasn't a game worthy of Heisman talk but for Auburn senior Kenny Irons it doesn't matter as long as his team gets the win. Running the ball 21 times for 69 yards in a 34-0 blowout victory over Mississippi State, Irons was hounded all game by a defense that only gave up nine first downs in a loss to South Carolina to open the season. Focusing on Irons was something the Bulldogs talked about coming into the contest and it was plain to see they weren't just whistling Dixie.
"They were focused (on me)," Irons says. "That's okay. We came out with the win. We'll just get better. Each and every week we're focusing on getting better. We'll just get ready for LSU this week."
It's not like Auburn didn't expect this treatment coming into the contest. After running for 180+ yards against Washington State last week Irons was one of the hot names across the country on the offensive side of the ball. What few knew was that Irons came into the game banged-up with a strained groin. That may have kept him from doing more on Saturday but it doesn't matter to Irons because he's already thinking ahead.
"I had a real good feeling (they would be concentrating on him)," Irons says. "I was getting treatment all week for injuries. I strained my groin last week (during the game). I was stretching on the sidelines and they finally took me out. We're just preparing for LSU."
Kenny Irons' longest run of the day came on a play when he recovered his own fumble down field for 11 yards.
With Irons getting most of the attention from the Mississippi State defense the Tigers were able to open up different parts of the offense. First and foremost was a passing game that was virtually non-existent in the opener except for the occasional screen pass to running back Brad Lester. Saturday against Mississippi State quarterback Brandon Cox completed 18-27 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. With the running game bogged down early it was up to Cox and company to get a fire going in the offense and that's exactly what they did.
"They really were geared to stop the run," Cox says. "They did a pretty good job of it. They loaded the box and that opened up the passing game for us. The offensive line did a great job of pass protection and the receivers made good catches. We had the passing game going today.
"Their defense was great," he adds. "Their defensive line is really big. We had trouble blocking them in the run game. With backs like Kenny and Brad Lester running the ball it's going to open up the passing game. Last week we ran the ball and this week we passed it. We're working on being more balanced."
Balance is the key for the Tigers as they return home this week to face the LSU Tigers in the game of the year in the Southeastern Conference. Both teams are ranked in the Top 10 in the national polls and this game is likely to decide the representative out of the West to Atlanta. For Cox this is as big as it gets.
"This is the game that makes our season right here," Cox says. "Going in there last year they had a great team and the've got a lot of guys back. We're going to have to be on top of our game to beat them. Like coach was saying in his speech, this one is over with. We're already thinking about LSU. We've got to be focused and have a great week of practice."