Auburn, Ala.—The scoreboard might have only shown field goals for the Auburn offense Saturday night but that didn't diminish the job they did in helping the Tigers defeat second-ranked Florida 27-17 Saturday night in front of a wild capacity crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Gaining 315 yards of total offense and controlling the football for a full 13 minutes and 26 seconds longer than the Florida offense, Al Borges' unit effectively kept Chris Leak and company off the field and that was the difference in the game. Along with a dominating second half performance from the defense the Tigers wore down the Gators on the way to the victory. Borges says that the character and guts the offense showed Saturday night was the biggest positive coming out of the win.
"After the way we played a week ago, to come back and play like we played and show the kind of character to get off the canvas, I can't emphasize how critical that is to the future of this football team."
For Auburn things begin with the running game and Saturday was no different. Although the stats only have the Tigers with 133 total yards on the ground, Kenny Irons and Brad Lester combined for 161 yards on 30 carries with only four lost yards on the night. All that came against the top-rated run defense in the SEC coming into the contest. Borges says that was a huge factor in coming away with a victory against the powerful Gators.
"We wanted to get back and start putting a hat on a hat and play Auburn football," Borges says. "We were getting away from Auburn football. I think our mix of run to pass helped us. We threw the ball and were going to throw the ball but we knew we make our bones running the football. Our offensive line was tremendous tonight. They did a great job."
Brad Lester came up big when he was needed most by the Tigers.
The star of the night on offense was Lester. Banged up much of the week with a sore groin, Lester exploded for 94 yards rushing on 17 carries and added another nine yards on a reception. With Irons slowed by a turf toe, Lester's play was huge for the offense on a night when they needed production out of the tailback position.
"Brad is an extremely productive player," Borges says. "Every time he touches the ball generally if he's got room something good is going to happen. He's going to make somebody miss, he's going to run through tackles, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, he does so many things. He's a great change-up back to Kenny."
The game also featured a solid performance out of Brandon Cox at quarterback. Still not fully healthy, the junior completed 18 of 27 passes for 182 yards and didn't turn the ball over against a Florida defense that had 11 interceptions coming into the contest. Borges says that his quarterback played a smart game and finally got into a rhythm for the first time in three weeks.
"It's like a three-point shooter," Borges says. "You start feeling it a little bit and he starts getting his feet set in the ground and completes some passes. He's capable of that kind of stuff."
With a win under their belts the offense can look back on Saturday's game knowing full well they did their part in earning the victory. They can also look back knowing they could have done a lot more. That's what Borges will be focusing on immediately because it could have made the difference Saturday night. Fortunately it didn't.
"It was not a good job of scoring but we did a good job of keeping the ball," Borges says. "We've got to address that. We've got to do a better job in the red area of putting the ball in the end zone. In terms of productivity it could have been better but it wasn't bad. It's what it took to win the game."