Brandon Cox was 12-24 for 165 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions through the first 55-plus minutes of the game. When it mattered he was 5-6 for 64 yards and a touchdown.
Auburn was 3-15 on third-down conversions. On the game-winning scoring drive, the Tigers didn't even need a third down.
Cox was beat up and sacked four times in the first half, but after some halftime adjustments he was sacked just once in the final 30 minutes.
Robert Dunn and Tommy Trott had dropped passes. They were two of the stars of preseason camp, but both finished with one reception for six yards. However, Dunn had a 57-yard punt return and Trott recovered a fumble on the game-winning drive to save face for Prechae Rodriguez, who coincidentally was the leading receiver with six catches for 73 yards.
There was good and bad for the Tigers, and offensive coordinator Al Borges is hoping that the mistakes will be limited from game one to game two.
"We're going to coach them as hard as we can coach them and try to fix all the problems," he explains. "I'm hoping from one week to the next that these kids have been through baptism by fire and I hope like heck that some of the mistakes we made go away.
"There were a few things that were a little un-Cox like," Borges adds. "I'll say this for him--when it counted, he played. He's had better games and he'd be the first person to tell you that. He did some really good things, too, and he completed some balls under incredible duress.
"I can promise you--anything Brandon Cox did wrong will be fixed because he's not hard to coach."
The Auburn offense celebrates Gabe McKenzie's late touchdown to give Auburn the lead.
Auburn came in with questions at several positions on the offensive side the of ball, and though they didn't always play well Borges says that the mental and emotional aspect of playing football was a positive.
"The kids never lost their faith," he says. "At the end of the game the kids were still convinced they were going to win the game. It would be easy because we had some bad things happen during the course of the game for them to go and tank it, but they didn't do it. That's a heck of a tribute to them. They didn't play well, but when we need to play well we took it down the field and scored. There is an upside."
"For their first game I thought they did a heck of a job," Borges says. "They were going to have their mistakes--no question about it. We did have some mistakes but I expected it. What I was fired up about and as much as we did some things wrong, we did it full speed. Mike Berry and Lee Ziemba played hard from the time that game started to the time it ended. They were down there blocking safeties on plays and giving their all out effort. We knew that going in."
The offense was rusty, unpolished and for the most part innefective, but Borges says the character his team showed was a foundation to build on as the Tigers prepare for the South Florida Bulls on Saturday at 8 p.m.
"It's never one thing," he notes. "Everybody will always blames the line. Sometimes you've got to get rid of the ball. There were several occasions where we should have gotten rid of the football. There was enough time to throw it and sometimes he (Cox) didn't. And sometimes we're covered, though that didn't happen a ton in this game. It's usually never one thing.
"We had gone three and a half quarters plus, and we had not run the ball very well," Borges continues. "We're about a 75 percent run/play-action team and about a 25 percent drop back, three-step, blah, blah, blah. It reached a point in the game where we couldn't do that anymore. We had to shift gears. We're going to try to protect him with some good, solid pass protections and we're going to try to throw the ball because we're running out of time and have our senior win the game for us--or at least be a big part of winning the game. He did it and came through."