The Tigers led just 10-0 at halftime and Auburn needed a 46-yard John Vaughn field goal on the final play of the half to get to double figures in points against the 40-plus point underdogs from the Mid-American Conference.
"We managed to go out in the third quarter and recover when we went out there with a better mindset," said quarterback Brandon Cox, who noted that he was about 85 percent of full speed on Saturday playing his with his ankle wrapped from an injury in the victory over LSU.
Cox said that although offensive coordinator Al Borges is "not the kind of guy who gets overly emotional" or loud at halftimes of games, the veteran coach was more animated than usual at the break. "He raised his voice a little bit to try to get everybody going," the junior quarterback noted.
"We wanted to become physical," Cox added. "We really weren't physical in the first half. In the second half we wanted to go out there and establish being physical and we did."
Running back Carl Stewart agreed with Cox's assessment of the difference in the second half, in which Auburn scored four touchdowns, was not about strategy.
"Obviously, we should have played with more emotion than we did in the first half," the running back said. "When it came down to crunch time in the second half we did what we needed to do, but we should have played that way in the first half."
Head coach Tommy Tuberville agreed with his players. "I think that Will (defensive coordinator Will Muschamp) and Al (Borges) tried to get their attention a little bit more," Tuberville said of the halftime adjustments. "They understood. You have to play with a lot more fire than what we played. You have to go out and win like that. It wasn't a very pretty game. It was pretty much ugly, We got it done. Good football teams do that."
Tuberville gave praise to the visitors from the Mid-American Conference, who dropped to 1-3 under their new head coach, Turner Gill. "I take my hat off to Buffalo. They played hard. They gave it all they had.
"They have a good scheme on offense that kept us on defense more than we would have liked," pointed out Tuberville, whose team only had the ball for 23 first half plays before finishing with 63. "It was good that our defense got to see that.
"We'll have to make some adjustments and it will give us an opportunity to look at the film and see what mistakes we made.
"Offensively, we didn't block very well in the first half, but they had something to do with that. We just didn't come off the ball and stay on our blocks."
Gill, who played for Nebraska as a quarterback at Jordan-Hare Stadium in 1982, said his second trip to Auburn was memorable. "It was a great experience for our football team to come into a great venue here," he said. "We played very hard. Auburn is solid offensively and defensively.
"Our team responded fairly well and took away some of the things that they do well," the coach added. "Effort is what we talk about all the time and the effort was there."
Auburn scored on drives of 54 yards and 80 yards to take command in the third quarter. Tuberville and his staff were able to substitute heavily in the fourth quarter and still managed to score quickly on drives of 63 yards and 49 yards thanks to big plays by true freshman tailback Ben Tate.
Offensive guard Tim Duckworth picks up Brad Lester after the tailback scored a touchdown. With Kenny Irons sitting out to rest a toe injury, Lester got the start.
Brad Lester, the starter, rushed for 83 yards and two TDs on 18 carries. Tre Smith carried the ball eight times for 57 yards and one score.
Cox threw just 10 passes and completed six for 134 yards. Blake Field was 4-4 in the final quarter for 19 yards. One of his top wide receivers, Prechae Rodriguez, did not play because of a one-game suspension for academic reasons.
The game marked the return of Kevin Sears from suspension at linebacker and Steve Gandy at linebacker after being injured. Starter Karibi Dede, who has a bruised thigh, was held out of action, but is expected to play vs. South Carolina. In his absence Merrill Johnson and Will Herring tied for the team lead in tackles with seven and cornerback David Irons had six stops.
The visitors got the ball first and didn't waste any time moving into Auburn territory before stalling at the Tiger 40 on a fourth down and seven play after converting a fourth and less than one four plays earlier on a QB sneak. Cornerback Patrick Lee, starting for injured Jonathan Wilhite, popped QB Drew Willy as he was throwing a pass and Auburn took over with good field position.
On its opening possession Auburn marched in for a touchdown with the key play a third down and 14 pass of 22 yards to Courtney Taylor that moved the ball to the Buffalo 27.
Six straight running plays, with five by Lester, put the Tigers on top 7-0. Lester scored untouched at left guard from two yards out with 2:46 left in the quickly played opening quarter. It took the Tigers 11 plays to cover 60 yards.
Buffalo moved the football well on its second possession, too, causing problems for the Auburn defense with speedy freshman running back James Starks running the ball on the option while playing quarterback, something he did in high school.
Auburn's second possession ended in a turnover as a deep sideline pass from Cox to Taylor was underthrown and intercepted. A 33-yard return by cornerback Kendric Hawkins gave Buffalo excellent field position at the Auburn 33 after Carl Stewart made the tackle.
The Tigers, backed up to their own nine after a holding call on Taylor, came up a yard short of a first down at the 27 and punted the ball back to the visitors, who took over at their own 31.
Neither team could move the football on their following possessions, but the Tigers managed to score on the final play of the half.
Auburn used its three timeouts on Buffalo's final possession of the half and forced a punt with from the Buffalo 38 with 33 seconds on the clock. After returner Robert Dunn bobbled the punt, he picked it up and raced down the east side sideline for 35 yards giving AU good field position with 16 seconds to play.
The Tigers got the ball back at the Buffalo 40 with time for three plays. The first was an incomplete pass, the second an 11-yard sideline route to Taylor and the third was a 46-yard field goal by John Vaughn that had plenty of leg to spare.
At halftime each team had seven first downs and the Tigers had just 123 total yards to 101 for the visitors. AU rushed the football 17 times for 76 yards while the Bulls ran 55 yards on 21 carries. Cox was 3-6 passing for 47 yards while Buffalo's Drew Wily hit 7-13 passes for 46 yards.
It took the Tigers just five plays to score to start the third quarter after Tristan Davis gave the team excellent field position on a kickoff. The big play on the scoring drive was a screen pass to Stewart, who rumbled 53 yards down the west sideline to the Buffalo 14
On first and goal from the four, Lester ran in unopposed at right end for the touchdown to put Auburn up 17-0 with 12:28 left in the third period.
Buffalo responded by driving 80 yards on 15 plays, converting a pair of fourth down plays to keep the drive alive. The first fourth down was ruled an incomplete pass on fourth and three at the AU 35. However, the replay crew overturned the call and gave the Bulls a first down at the AU 31.
On fourth and goal at the five, Willy got away from the pass rush. With five wide receivers, he rolled right and found wide receiver Evan Wallace open for the touchdown. That cut the AU lead to 17-7 with 5:33 left in the third quarter. It was the first TD the Tigers had allowed since the third quarter of the opening game vs. Washington State.
l Auburn responded quickly with Tre Smith at tailback. The big play on a 71-yard scoring drive was his 23-yard run at left end. Smith powered over from two yards out for the TD with 0:40 left in the third quarter to make the score 24-7.
AU scored on its next possession with Tate showing his power and speed at left tackle, going 42 yards for the score to cap a five-play, 63-yard drive that featured many reserves, but included Cox at QB.
Field was in at QB for the final scoring drive as Auburn scored in three plays from 49 yards out with Tate carrying the football the field 28 yards.
Auburn outrushed the visitors 261-87 and outpassed Buffalo 153-11. The Tigers played without starting cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, who is out with a hamstring injury. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Pat Lee.
Auburn returns to action on Thursday as the Tigers travel to Columbia to face the South Carolina Gamecocks.