Tuberville: Cox Good, Defense Learns Lesson

Comments from Auburn's head football coach are featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Tommy Tuberville says that quarterback Brandon Cox had his best game of the season vs. South Carolina and that his team's defense learned a lesson vs. the Gamecocks.

Cox completed 13-19 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown without any interceptions as the Tigers improved their record to 5-0 with a 24-17 SEC football victory at South Carolina on Thursday night.

"Our offense did pretty much what it wanted to except for a couple of series," Tuberville says. "We just didn't have enough at-bats. We didn't play very well on third and fourth downs on defense and I thought that was the key to keeping them in the ball game."

The Gamecocks converted 6-13 third downs and made 3-4 fourth downs. Auburn converted 4-10 third downs and 3-3 fourth downs.

Tuberville talks with ESPN's Erin Andrews before Thursday night's game.

Commenting on Cox, the Auburn coach says, "It was Brandon's best effort. He hit some big third down passes. He took advantage of some things they were doing. We could have thrown the ball a little bit more, but again we are still wanting to run the ball and keep our defense off the field, especially when we couldn't stop them so I thought that Brandon played heads up. He got us into a lot of good plays."

Commenting on why his team's defense struggled against Steve Spurrier's South Carolina offense, which featured a lot of five wide receiver sets and a shotgun formation, Tuberville says, "It is just that wide open stuff--not much running game. The quarterback is supposed to scramble around.

"We learned a pretty good lesson," Tuberville says. "You have got to contain a quarterback like that and make him stay in the pocket and we didn't do it. We had some young guys running inside making some mental mistakes on the corners. If we had just kept him in the pocket and made him throw on time, I thought we would be much better, but that is just part of it.

"They had a pretty good trap set for us," Tuberville adds. "They got the ball to their two best receivers on the outside. We might have played a little soft at times. Wilhite (cornerback Jonathan Wilhite) did not play. We held him out because he wasn't quite 100 percent. He could have played, but we took the chance playing the younger guys.

"Again, if we had just kept him in the pocket we would have been much better," the coach says of his team's struggles with quarterback Syvelle Newton. "You can't let a guy get outside you like that and put pressure on your secondary. We put a lot of pressure on our secondary."

Also on Friday, Tubervile noted that starting center Joe Cope injured his knee in the gam, but continued to play on Thursday night. The coach says the senior may need surgery after the season, but should be able to play through the problem.

Tuberville says he isn't concerned that his Tigers didn't win by more than a seven-point margin at Columbia. "It's not about style points, it's about winning games," he says. "I saw two teams in front of us (Ohio State in both polls, Southern Cal in the coaches poll) play very close games last week, too."

Commenting further on the need to win "with style" for the polls, he says, "I could care less what they think to be honest with you. We are not going to get the respect anyway for some reason. We are going to earn it.

"We are paid to win games. Our guys have done a pretty good job. It wasn't one of our better games, but I would say it was a great challenge for our team on the road. I will be anxious to see some of the games this weekend of some of these so-called high-ranked football teams.

"I like our football team," the coach adds. "We have got some less than strong points in some areas. I am not going to say weaknesses because I don't think we have a whole lot. We are going to make our mistakes, but the whole thing is playing as a team, which we do, and getting the most out of our players, which they do. They give all they have got. If the SEC has to prove anything to anybody across the country, something is wrong."

Tuberville says with the Tigers winning 20 of their last 21 SEC games and being highly ranked in the polls, they become an inviting target for each week's opponent. "We are going to get everybody's best shot," he says. "We have got to play to our best each week to try to make things happen. That is part of being ranked high, being one of the best teams in the country, which we have been the last few years. Our kids know that. Our coaches do a good job of preparing our players. There wouldn't be a player who didn't tell you last night that wasn't going to be a hard-fought game."

Tuberville's Tigers are unbeaten and the coach says that is the bottom line. "We are not going to turn our season into apologizing every week if we win by one or two points. We are going to take it and go on if we can do it and hope for the best. We are going to get everybody's best shot and that is the way it should be."

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