Auburn, Ala.--Since a less than impressive effort on offense against Arkansas a month ago offensive coordinator Al Borges says that he felt like his offense improved with every passing game. Following Saturday's victory over Arkansas State Borges says he can't say the same thing again.
"I don't feel like we took a step forward today," Borges says. "I'm not going to say that. We made some nice plays and did a few nice things but for the most part we did not get better today in my opinion."
Looking at the numbers things weren't terrible on offense Saturday as quarterback Brandon Cox threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns, running back Ben Tate added 93 yards on the ground to bolster the running game and Courtney Taylor caught four passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't those numbers that had Borges upset following the contest though. It was the number four that made all the difference.
Running back Ben Tate was one of the bright spots on offense as he rushed for 93 yards on just 11 carries.
One of the nation's leaders in fewest turnovers coming into the game, Auburn turned the ball over four times against the Indians with Cox throwing two interceptions for the first time in over a year. Borges says the turnovers and key penalties were uncalled for and something they can't afford if they hope to become the kind of offense they should be this season.
"We were sloppy," Borges says. "We had not shown a tendency to turn the ball over and turned it over four times for goodness sakes. We jumped offsides down on the goal line. We threw an interception in the end zone after a turnover when we could have really put the game out of reach. Sloppy, that's the best way to describe how we played. We had a couple of nice plays here or there but not a very good overall performance."
That starts at the most important position on the field with Cox. Although he had a good day, completing 12 of 21 attempts, the junior threw several errant passes and put the ball up for grabs on at least three occasions with two getting picked off. Borges says that the turnovers just can't happen and that's the most disappointing aspect of the day.
"That's the first multiple interception game he's had since Arkansas (2005)," Borges says. "We can't do that. The one thing we had not done, we had not turned the ball over much. We kept the game more interesting than it should have been because we did a poor job of taking care of the ball. That wasn't just Brandon. We had a fumble on a third down and one. That's inexcuseable, absolutely terrible. You can't do things like that and beat teams more your level."
Once again for the Tigers one of the stars of the day was the senior Taylor. Adding to his already impressive career totals, Taylor went over the 2,000-yard mark on Saturday with his second-straight 100-yard game. Borges says that Taylor's play was huge for the offense because he was the playmaker they had been searching for.
"He did a nice job of run after catch," Borges says. "He had a couple of brilliant plays I thought. What else is new. He's been good every single week. I have been real happy with his play. He caught another touchdown pass which is nice."
Coming into the week the talk had been that the reserves would get a chance to play more of an extended role on offense this week if the Tigers built a sizeable lead. Saturday Tate and players such as Montez Billings made some plays but it was mostly the starting offense on the field until late despite almost a four touchdown lead halfway through the fourth. Borges says they wanted to send a message to the offense that you have to take care of business and perform like you're supposed to perform before you earn the right to call it a day.
"We wanted to make a point that we were going to have to execute," Borges says. "I don't think the game was in any danger but that wasn't the point. We weren't trying to run the score up or do anything like that, all we were trying to do was to gain some continuity and execute."