Ninth Victory Is Auburn's Second Shutout

Auburn improved its record to 9-1 with a 27-0 non-conference victory over Arkansas State.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's defense posted its second shutout of the season and the Tigers did enough on offense to coast to a 27-0 non-conference victory on Saturday vs. Arkansas State.

Offensive coordinator Al Borges was not happy with his group's inconsistencies. It was a day of big plays and bad plays for the offense, which turned the ball over four times. Auburn's previous high this season was two fumbles lost vs. Mississippi State in the week two 34-0 shutout of the Bulldogs and two interceptions last Saturday at Ole Miss.

Borges said, "The last three weeks I have been able to say, ‘You know, I think we got a little better.' I don't feel that way now.' Like Tommy (head coach Tommy Tuberville) says, we have got to put it to bed. We are a good offensive football team and as long as we can do the things we are capable of doing, and take care of the ball, we will be fine. We didn't do that today very well."

Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said he doesn't have to analyze the video this week to know that his group played well. "Anytime you shut out an opponent, you have got to be pleased with that."

Auburn began substituting heavily on defense in the second quarter. "It is always good to get young guys in and let them play because they are the future of the program," Muschamp said. "It is a key thing for them in their development as players.

"We are young across the board, but I do love getting those young guys in there and letting them play and have fun," Muschamp added. "They work hard like everybody else and they deserve to get out there and mix it up."

The Tigers held a 360-86 edge in total yardage entering the fourth quarter and had given up just four first downs on defense. AU finished with 399 yards and gave up 177.

The Indians moved the ball better in the fourth quarter against the AU reserves, but blew their only opportunity to score by mishandling a short field goal.

"We didn't play very well on offense," a none-too-pleased Tuberville said after the game. The head coach said it is time to turn up the intensity with Georgia and Alabama on the schedule the next two weeks.

"Preseason is over with," he said. "We have 10 games behind us and have nine wins. It has been good so far, but those games mean nothing when you have these two coming up.

"We will change our focus tomorrow, coaches and players. We will get our mind right. We are going to work harder. We are going to work longer. We are going to put our best effort forward, and we look forward to the next two games. We put an emphasis on these two games like no other games during the year. We always look forward to it. We get four hours of each team each year, and we are going to give them our best shot and see how that works."

Auburn got through game 10 without any serious new injuries with the possible exception of an ankle sprain suffered by Eric Brock. Another safety, Tristan Davis, did not dress out for the game after tweaking a hamstring. Muschamp said he doesn't know if Davis, who is also AU's top kickoff returner, will be ready to go for game 11 vs. Georgia.

Muschamp said that he does know the Tigers will be ready emotionally for the Bulldogs. "If you can't get up for that game you don't need to be playing football for Auburn," the former Georgia player said.

Senior defensive end Christopher Browder, who got the start, was smiling after the victory. "It feels great to get a shutout," he said. "It was also good to get a lot of young guys in and get playing time, too."

Auburn continued to struggle with scoring touchdowns in the red zone. The Tigers batted 50 percent vs. Arkansas State on scoring TDs and settled for two field goals and ended another red zone penetration with a turnover.

Two touchdowns were wiped off the scoreboard with penalties, something that Tuberville said was "very discouraging." Auburn's head coach added, "We are going to have a different football team next week from top to bottom tomorrow when we walk into the offices at 12:30 until the time we play the last game in two weeks."

Brandon Cox was 12-21 passes for 251 yards, but he threw two interceptions and was not as sharp with his passing as he has been in recent games.

Courtney Taylor had another big day for the Tigers.

Courtney Taylor caught four passes for a career-best 116 yards and one score. He became the first Tiger since Ronny Daniels in 1999 to have back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. The senior now has 2,018 career receiving yards, which is fourth in school history, and is four shy of Karsten Bailey's school record of 150 receptions.

Kenny Irons, who is battling a turf toe injury and an ankle sprain, carried the ball just one time for no yardage on the opening series and watched the rest of the game as Brad Lester got a dozen carries for 62 yards and freshman Ben Tate netted 93 on 11 runs.

Defensively, backup linebacker Merrill Johnson led the Tigers in tackles with six and another backup linebacker, Patrick Trahan, added five tackles as did Lorenzo Ferguson, who got the start at safety in place of Aairon Savage, who has been nursing a shoulder injury. Savage did see action at safety along with walk-on Brant Haynie.

Auburn lost the coin toss and Arkansas State deferred. Brad Lester returned the kickoff behind good blocking to the Auburn 43.

With an announced crowd of 78,493 watching under blue skies and a cool breeze it took the Tigers just five plays to put the football into the end zone after an ugly first play when a bad pitch to Irons was fumbled for an eight-yard loss.

Cox then went to work in the air, hitting Rodgeriqus Smith on a slant route for 16 and on third down he connected for 38 yards to Lee Guess.

On first down at the Indians' 13, Irons was stopped for no gain on a sweep at left end. On the next play Cox looked into the end zone and connected with Taylor on a touchdown play.

After giving up a 13-yard run on the first play for ASU, the Tigers forced a punt on fourth and 22.

The Tigers then went three and out and the visitors did the same thing prior to Auburn's second scoring drive.

Auburn took over at its 29 with five minutes left in the quarter and moved 67 yards in six plays. The big one was a 41-yarder to Taylor on the first play.

The Tigers moved to a first and goal at the 11, but stalled there after Lester loss four yards on a sweep, Carl Stewart gained six on a screen and Cox hit Taylor over the middle for five, setting up fourth and three. Vaughn got the call for the chipshot field goal and he made the 21-yarder with 1:15 left in the opening quarter.

The second quarter was filled with mistakes for the Tigers when Tray Blackmon recovered a fumble at the ASU 25. However, on the next play Cox tried to hit Prechae Rodriguez in the end zone on a deep sideline route, but Montis Harrison outfought the Auburn receiver for the football and came away with an interception.

The Tigers forced another three and out and got the ball back at their own 26. The Tigers moved the ball into Indian territory, but turned it over on a Cox fumble on third and one at the 38-yard line when he tried to get a first down after missing connections on a handoff try to Stewart.

After another three and out for the Indians, Auburn took over at its 28. On the next play, a receiver screen to Taylor, went for 57 yards as the senior cut across the field.

Lester then ran for nine, three, one, and one to set up a third and goal at the one-yard line. Stewart scored easily at left guard, but the play was negated by an illegal motion call on Gabe McKenzie. Cox then threw an incomplete pass as he tried to hit Robert Dunn on a bootleg pass. The Tigers settled for a field goal and a 13-0 lead with 4:15 in the half.

The Indians then picked up two of their three first half first downs to run out the clock before intermission. At the half the Tigers held a 223-59 lead in total offense with 193 coming through the air. The Indians outrushed the Tigers 59-30, but completed just two first half passes on five attempts.

After a three and out for the Indians to start the second half, the Tigers wasted no time scoring their second touchdown.

Starting at their own 42 after a 31-yard punt, Brad Lester ran the ball four times to set up third and goal at the one. This time the Tigers handled that test as Stewart went airborne at left guard and scored with ease to put the home team up 20-0.

The Tigers scored on their next possession after an Arkansas State gamble backfired. On fourth down and less than a yard for a first down at the AU 45, punter Brett Shrable tried to complete a sideline pass to Ben Owens, who couldn't handle the ball with Haynie covering on the play.

Three plays later Cox hit wide open Montez Billings for 21 yards as the receiver had running room, but slipped and fell. It didn't matter because two plays later Cox found Stewart uncovered in the end zone on a wheel route play. That put Auburn up 27-0 with 4:01 left in the third quarter.

Auburn's next possession looked like it would produce points, too, but guard Tim Duckworth was called for holding on a screen pass for a touchdown to Tate. On the next play, Cox forced the ball into heavy coverage and was intercepted at the AU two.

The Tiger reserves just missed a safety two plays letter on a hit by Tez Doolittle, but a pass interference call on Pat Lee got the Indians off the goal line. That started the only serious drive of the game for ASU, which moved to a first and goal at the AU eight. However, on fourth down at the three a field goal attempt was botched and the shutout was saved for the Tigers.

AU kept the first offense in the game and moved the ball off the goal line, but had to punt for the second time when Billings dropped a pass on third down. AU got the ball back three plays later on an interception by Patrick Lee, but on the next play with the offensive second team in the game Blake Field threw an interception. ASU kept the ball the final 2:38 and ended the game at its own 45.

"We came down here to compete and have an opportunity to win and obviously we did not get that done," said ASU coach Steve Roberts. "We were proud of the effort or our players. I thought they played extremely hard. We gave up a couple of big plays early in the ball game that I felt we had the opportunity to make. We didn't get the job done there."

The Tigers will wrap up their home season next Saturday as the Georgia Bulldogs visit Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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