Auburn, Ala.--As the offensive numbers made it painfully obvious, it wasn't a very good night for the Auburn Tigers' offense under the direction of Coach Al Borges and senior quarterback Brandon Cox. Just 62 rushing yards, two interceptions, and 3-15 on third-down conversions are rarely the numbers for a winning football team but on Saturday night Auburn made those pay off for a victory.
Perhaps the biggest reason why came late in the contest when Borges went against Auburn's tendency under Coach Tommy Tuberville and became a pass first team. The move paid off.
"It wasn't a masterpiece that's for sure but the good news is we did it when we had to do it," Borges said. "That's an indication of an experienced quarterback. In the last drive I made a decision in the play calling that we weren't going to play pass any more. We weren't going to try to run the ball.
"We were going to let him see some throws. Whether it was good, safe protections or drop backs, and he got to see his throws pretty good. We did a good job of protecting for the most part and took it right down the field. If I had to do it again I probably would have done that earlier in the game."
For much of the game Cox was left to literally shoulder the burden for Auburn's offense. With the Kansas State defense stacking the box with as many as nine men within five yards of the football, the Tigers tried to open up the offense using the run and play action passes. That proved to be futile for the most part as it only served to get Cox beat up and battered as time and time again Wildcat defenders hit the senior lefty.
"We threw it pretty good earlier at times but there wasn't enough consistency in our passing game to loosen up the back end of the defense," Borges said. "That makes it hard. When they're not all bunched up in there it's hard for young kids to block them. When they are bunched up in there it multiplies the problem."
Finishing the night 17-30 for 229 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions, Cox has had better games but maybe none that showed his willingness to lead as much as Saturday's victory. Coming up big in Auburn's last drive, Cox hit Prechae Rodriguez for back-to-back gains of 12 and 17 yards, a six-yard strike to Robert Dunn, and a huge 16-yard completion to James Swinton before connecting with Gabe McKenzie on a three-yard score. In just six plays Cox led the Tigers 57 yards in 2:25 to put them ahead for good.
"He made a couple of bad decisions but for the most part he got off the canvas," Borges said. "We talked on the sideline after every series and tried to sort out some of the errors. At the end of the day he was back to being Brandon Cox.
"He bruised his shoulder a little bit but he got off the turf and brought us back for a win," Borges added. "I think it's a heck of a tribute to him but we've got to get better. We've got to improve as an offense which we will do. As long as we keep our people healthy we will get better. We had a lot of young kids in there that made a lot of young mistakes. At the end of the day we still came out with a win and I think that's probably the most important thing to build on."