When you look at Auburn's loss to South Florida it's hard to find many positives other than an outstanding defensive performance by the Tigers, but there were a few. One of the best was true freshman kicker Wes Byrum.
Called on in a clutch situation, Byrum delivered a 40-yard field goal late in the game to put the Tigers ahead. It was his third make of the night. Byrum said although the game didn't turn out as well as anyone would have liked nobody can find satisfaction in a performance, not even him.
"As a kicker that's part of your job," Byrum said. "The game will rest on you at some point so you just have to go out there and kick the ball well. It's a team effort and I'll pick my guys up just like they will when I miss."
Another player that continues to perform well is sophomore tight end Gabe McKenzie. The Mobile native caught three passes for 27 yards and added his second touchdown grab in as many games. Very emotional after the loss, McKenzie said that the offense got some rhythm in the second quarter but just couldn't sustain it enough to pull out the victory.
"We got it going a little bit and the second touchdown was big but we're just trying to get the win," McKenzie said. "We're trying to do whatever we need to do to win. We'll do whatever it takes."
One of the most valuable players for the Tigers against South Florida was linebacker Chris Evans. Playing sideline to sideline, the junior made 14 tackles for the Auburn defense against the Bulls. That is just one less than his total from his first two seasons on the Plains.
"It's just the coaches," Evans said. "I take my hat off to the coaches. They put us in the right place at the right time. We just didn't execute to the best of our ability. If we would have done that we would have won. I just thank our coaches."
An important member of Auburn's defense anyway because of his versatility, Evans became huge for Coach Will Muschamp Saturday night without starters Tray Blackmon and Merrill Johnson on the field. Evans said you just have to step up when your time comes and make plays.
"We were missing Tray and of course Merrill went out," Evans said. "That's going to be tough. We prepared all week. The second string guys came in and there was no letdown. Now we start the SEC race next week. Everything has to be uphill from here."
One problem for the defense in 2006 was causing turnovers, something Muschamp has been preaching since back in spring practice. Evans said while the defense played outstanding, they didn't do a good enough job of forcing the Bulls into mistakes that would have helped the Tigers in their quest for the win.
"That's not just our goal for this game, Coach Muschamp has been saying that all through two a days," Evans said. "The defense has to create turnovers. If we do that we're guaranteed to win. It's just not on the offense because that's our mentality coming from two a days."
One area of concern for the second consecutive week was on kickoff coverage. Without the strong leg of Wes Byrum to kick off after injuring an ankle covering the opening kickoff against Kansas State, the Tigers again gave up a big play to the Bulls as Jerome Murphy returned Auburn's last kickoff 59 yards to set up the game-tying field goal to send the game to overtime. Byrum said he's looking forward to getting back on the field to help out on kickoffs.
"As soon as I get back to kicking off hopefully I'll be hitting them in the endzone," Byrum said. "Maybe that will give us a little bit better field position so our defense can go out and stop them."