Auburn, Ala.--From a numbers standpoint, Auburn's 38-13 victory over Tulane Saturday on homecoming at Jordan-Hare Stadium was the best day of the year for Al Borges' offense. Piling up 432 yards of total offense and going over 200 yards both passing and running, the day was a very solid one for the unit.
What makes it even more impressive is the fact that it was done without several of Auburn's key performers on that side of the ball. Already without center Joe Cope and tight end Cole Bennett, Auburn sat starting running back Kenny Irons, fullback Carl Stewart and starting guard Timmy Duckworth because of bumps and bruises. Then starting tailback Brad Lester came out of the game in the first quarter after re-aggravating a strained groin.
It didn't seem to matter to Brandon Cox and the Auburn offense as the junior quarterback completed 16-19 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns while true freshman tailback Benjamin Tate added 156 yards and one score on 26 carries. Borges says that the day was very good considering all the players that were held out.
"It's nice to have some guys that can play," Borges says. "We had to put Ben in there to see what he could do. Tre Smith did some nice things. Having some guys that can play, that makes a difference. Being able to function and still rush the football when you don't have your number one backs is a pretty good testament to the offensive line as much as anything.
"We were balanced on offense," he adds. "We threw 19 balls and completed 16 of them. We rushed the ball for over 200 yards. That's what we needed to do today, score some points, control the clock and take advantage of any turnovers we got. I was really disappointed in the series to open the half after we got great field position but that aside the kids played pretty efficiently."
Quarterback Brandon Cox threw the ball to eight different receivers with Taylor leading the way with five catches for 63 yards.
Much of that was due to the play of Cox. Sizzling to start the game, Cox hit on 12 of 13 passes in the first half as the Tigers took a two-touchdown lead into intermission. In the third Auburn got on the board with a 23-yard touchdown to Courtney Taylor, his first TD catch of the season. It was one of three touchdown passes on the day for Cox and Borges says he was glad to see that kind of production.
"We finally got a few touchdown passes thrown, which was nice," Borges says. "We finally got Courtney Taylor in the end zone, which is really nice. It was a pretty efficient day. We just had a couple of series where we dropped some balls and bobbled some balls. We had a couple of three and outs that really shouldn't have been. Tulane played us hard but at the end of the day we probably took a step forward."
Auburn had another injury scare on offense late in the victory as starting center Jason Bosley went down with what has been reported as a sprained knee. That meant a move for Jonathan Palmer from right tackle to center. With Hart already in the game Antwoin Daniels came on to play tackle in the closing minutes. Borges says even with the changes the line played pretty well but they'll have to wait and see how it will be this week against Ole Miss.
"They did a good job," Borges says. "We didn't give up a sack and rushed for 220 yards. Ben had a great day. We knew what he was capable of. The biggest thing was just finding opportunities for him. This was a big one today.
"We would probably play Jonathan Palmer in there," Borges adds. "We're pretty beat up right now. It would probably be Palmer with Leon Hart playing (tackle). We have to look at the whole thing and see what the deal is. That's obviously the next alternative, to play J.P. in there. He's done a great job playing center when we've asked him to do it."