Big Play Defense Leads Auburn To Victory

A look at the big plays and turning points is featured in Auburn's 31-6 football victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Auburn, Ala.--Daniel Cobb said he wasn't happy the offense only managed two touchdowns on its own, but the senior quarterback was smiling as he enjoyed the celebration of a 31-6 SEC victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores.

The Tigers had their moments, both good and not so good, on both offense and defense, as well as the kicking game, but had more than enough firepower to outmuscle Vandy at wet and sometimes very windy Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville and offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino said that the weather caused the Tigers to make changes in their offensive game plan. The Tigers had planned to throw more intermediate and deep routes, but opted for running the ball inside and throwing short, quick-developing pass routes.

Cobb hit 13-18 passes for 143 yards and no touchdowns, enough to keep the Vandy defense honest as it had to worry about the Tiger passing attack as well as Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and the running attack. The wet track didn't slow the Cadillac, who was the star of the show for the offense with 170 rushing yards on 20 carries. He scored touchdowns on runs for 23 and 65 yards.

"I had some nice holes to run through, especially on the touchdowns," Williams said.

Cobb said that he was pleased with the passing game considering the conditions, which ranged from driving rain and wind in the darkness to bright and sunny with a wet field. "When I was throwing the ball deep, I warned the receivers not to expect a tight, pretty spiral with the ball being wet and heavy."

Cobb's favorite target on the day was senior split end Marcel Willis, who caught six passes for 66 yards. "I am not sure if that was my best game because I missed some blocks I should have made, but it was the most catches I have had," he said. "I thought we came out and played better in the second half and made plays when we needed to make them."

Willis' assessment was right on target. The Tigers held a shaky 14-6 halftime lead. The offense only had four possessions with Vandy burning clock with its ball-control option attack. The Auburn defense made adjustments in the locker room at halftime on how to slow the Vandy running game and kept the visitors off the scoreboard the rest of the afternoon. The offense racked up 140 yards in the third quarter as the Tigers pulled away for a comfortable victory that enabled Tuberville and staff to play the reserves for the last half of the final quarter.

"We played a lot of players in this game and that is going to help us down the road," said Tuberville, who will be on the road very quickly with a Thursday night ESPN game coming up in Starkville vs. Mississippi State.

Overall, Tuberville gave his Tigers mixed reviews. He said he liked the big plays on offense and defense, especially the touchdowns scored by the defense, but was less than pleased with the offensive consistency and the defensive struggles to stop the option.

Junior defensive tackle, Spencer Johnson, who scored his first touchdown since he was a senior tight end in high school, said, "To score on defense is really big for us. That is one of our goals going into every game. Once I saw that ball on the ground I knew there was a great chance to pick it up and go for the touchdown."

Mayo Sowell, who caused the fumble on the play, said, "I knew Spencer was going to score because he is a good athlete. I was trying to get to the ball, but he was able to get there before I was. It was a big play for this team. It was a hustle play, the kind the coaches want to see us make."

Spencer Johnson scores his first college touchdown.

That fourth quarter defensive TD ended the scoring with 12:32 left to play as Auburn improved its record to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the SEC. Vandy is 1-2 overall, 0-1 in the SEC and 0-7 in trips to Jordan-Hare Stadium, where a crowd listed at 76,127 watched the action.

Auburn should have scored on the opening possession, but couldn't cash in a first and goal opportunity. After Cobb was sacked on third down, Damon Duval's 32-yard field goal try was low resulting in a blocked kick.

The defense quickly atoned for the missed scoring opportunity by getting its first touchdown of the season when Karlos Dansby blitzed Jay Cutler and knocked the ball out of his hands as he dropped into the pocket. Dansby scooped up the loose ball and scooted seven yards into the end zone for a 7-0 lead in a driving rain. With the wind gusting, a good hold by Justin Fetsko enabled Duval to make the PAT.

The Tigers scored on their second offensive possession, moving 58 yards on eight plays with the Cadillac making another special run, this one from 23 yards out. The sophomore took the ball at right end and cut back towards the middle on the way to the end zone.

Vandy got on the scoreboard in the second quarter after driving 65 yards on 11 plays. The Commodores could have scored a touchdown, but Dan Stricker dropped a sideline pass in the end zone in front of Junior Rosegreen. Unlike last year in Nashville, Stricker wasn't allowed to score on a pass he didn't catch. Two plays later, Greg Johnson kicked a 33-yard field goal.

Auburn's third possession looked like it was going to produce points, but Ronnie Brown fumbled at the VU four-yard line with 7:41 in the half. A touchdown there might have slammed the Dores on this day, but the visitors took advantage of the break and got the ball off the goal line with good running from fullback Matthew Tant.

Auburn got the ball back thanks to another good play by Dansby whose pressure forced a bad pass that was picked off by Travaris Robinson with 5:13 to play. However, AU went three and out and Duval punted 56 yards into the end zone.

Vandy put together its best drive, mixing option plays and passes from the shotgun to move 69 yards in 13 plays before settling for a 28-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the half.

At intermission, Auburn had 194 total yards on 30 plays. The Commodores had 151 total yards on 36 plays.

Vandy got the ball to start the second half and held it until the 10:13 mark before punting into the end zone.

The Tigers went to a double tight end, two wideout set and began moving the ball with Williams at tailback. Cobb hit passes to Willis and tight end Robert Johnson and then Chris Butler came in at tailback to run out of the I formation behind Jake Slaughter. However, the drive stalled and the Tigers had to settle for a 35-yard field goal. Duval made this one, to end his streak of three straight misses.

Carnell Williams goes the distance for his second touchdown of the game.

The next scoring drive for the Tigers was much quicker. Cobb hit freshman wideout Ben Obomanu for eight yards and then Williams made a would-be tackler miss and raced down the left sideline untouched for a 65-yard touchdown that put the Tigers up 24-6 and put the Commodores into a big hole.

Mayo Sowell's backside sack followed by Johnson's scoop and score play made the hole too big for the Commodores to even try to climb out of as Auburn extended its streak to eight quarters of not allowing an opponent to cross its goal line. "That isn't bad, but we can still play better on defense and that is what we are trying to do," said Rosegreen.

Tiger Ticket Extra:

Turning Point: Damon Duval's 35-yard field goal in the third quarter ended his streak of three straight misses and gave the Tigers breathing room at 17-6 with 4:02 in the period.

Offensive Play Of The Game: On Carnell Williams' first touchdown run of the game, a 23-yarder through traffic, the sophomore showed his classic Cadillac style. Williams alone is worth the price of admission to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Defensive Play Of The Game: Karlos Dansby created the turnover and scooped up the fumble to give Auburn a 7-0 lead as he blitzed quarterback Jay Cutler. The junior said he knew the redshirt freshman was in trouble when he was bearing down on the QB with the rain pouring onto the field and the wind ripping from the south.

Special Teams Play Of The Game: Duval's tackle on a kickoff coverage play in the fourth quarter drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd and won the senior respect on the sideline. "Guys were coming up to me and saying, ‘Man, we need to put you at defensive back,'" a smiling Duval said. Duval said there is no way he is quick enough to play DB for an SEC team, but he admitted that it was one of his favorite plays of a career that has many memorable ones.

Worth Noting:Tiger VI, the War Eagle mascot, did not land on the 50-yard line or anywhere close to his trainers in the pre-game show. The bird didn't bolt though. The eagle landed next to the hedge on the west stands and waited patiently for the eagle handlers to retrieve her.

Worth Noting, Part II:Cornerback Horace Willis made his first start playing for Roderick Hood. Willis was rewarded for a strong performance vs. Western Carolina. Hood saw action as a reserve and a return man. He had one of Auburn's two interceptions.

Worth Nothing, Part III: Very few fans abandoned ship during the heavy first quarter rainstorm. The crowd was officially listed at 76,127, but that was obviously the number of tickets sold because there were not that many fans' fannies in the stadium.

Zebras On Patrol: Auburn struggled with penalties, getting flagged 10 times for 86 yards. The crowd let the officials know what they thought about several questionable penalties. The worst call of the day was probably the pass interference call on Carlos Rogers, who made a beautiful break on the ball to deflect a pass intended for Vandy star Dan Stricker. "I don't know what the referee saw," Rogers said. "I tipped the ball. Coach Chizik always says whatever they call, forget about it and go to the next play. The next play Roderick got an interception."

Injury Update: Fullback Brandon Johnson (shoulder) was held out of the game as was defensive end Reggie Torbor (ankle). Taylor Bourgeois re-injured his shoulder, but is expected to be ready for game four. Third team safety Will Herring was held out with a thigh problem. Antarrious Williams started in place of Dontarrious Thomas, who was being held out to rest a hyper-extended knee. Thomas was called into action when Williams hurt his leg on a chop block, Tuberville said. The head coach said he won't know for sure until Sunday if any of the other bumps and bruises from the game are serious.

Quote Of The Day: "I think the play by Karlos Dansby was a tone-setter," said defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. "Karlos made the play and then made a play on the ball. That's Karlos' game right there there."

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