Auburn, Ala.--It hasn't been a fun ride for Auburn's offense through three games in the 2007 season with 12 turnovers and just five offensive touchdowns to show for their efforts. Saturday was much of the same to start with as senior Brandon Cox threw interceptions on his first two passes, one off the hands of tight end Cole Bennett, to make the choice for the Auburn staff to insert true freshman Kodi Burns a much easier one.
Entering the game in the first quarter, Burns sparked the Auburn offense to two second quarter touchdowns and pushed the running game to its best total since the Tulane game last season. In the end it wasn't enough as Cox came in late to attempt a last-second win but came up just short in the 19-14 loss to Mississippi State. Sophomore running back Benjamin Tate said that in his mind it doesn't change things though, he just feels like they've added another weapon to the offense in Burns.
"It doesn't matter," Tate said. "Whoever our quarterback is then I'm going to ride with him. You see how Brandon drives us down the field on the last drive and you also see what Kodi can do. Kodi is going to be a great quarterback but Brandon is our quarterback right now and we're going to stick behind him."
With one last-gasp effort on offense and needing to move the ball the length of the field, Auburn inserted Cox back into the game and the senior moved the offense into scoring position. Making several nice throws and also a big run for a first down, Cox got Auburn to the nine-yard line with just over one minute left and two timeouts. Instead of putting Burns back into the game at that time, offensive coordinator Al Borges said he felt like they had to throw the ball because of limited time left and Brandon was the best bet. Tate said it didn't matter to him and the offense who was in at that time because their only focus was winning.
"I wasn't worried about that," Tate says. "I don't care who was in the game. I just know that whoever my quarterback was I was going to ride with him and try to get in the endzone for the win."
Tate had Auburn's longest offensive play of the season for a touchdown in the second quarter when he raced 28 yards for a score on Saturday as part of a 91-yard effort on 15 carries. Auburn's most consistent back this season by a longshot, Tate said he just wanted to get to the endzone on the play.
"I was just running hard and I wanted to get to the endzone," Tate says. "I could see it was getting closer and closer and I just felt like I wasn't going to be denied."
Auburn now turns its attention to New Mexico State this week as the Aggies come to town as a very dangerous offensive team under the direction of former Kentucky Coach Hal Mumme and his passing game. Tate said he's not concerned about anything other than improving on offense but he's not quite sure how to fix the problems.
"I can't tell you," Tate says. "You'll have to ask the offensive coordinator that. I don't break it down every day. We just have to get things going. We have to work as a unit. We did a lot better. We've just got to keep building off that."
This week will be a trying one for the Tigers as they come off their first two-game losing streak under Coach Tommy Tuberville since losing to Ole Miss and Georgia in 2003. Tate said that the team just has to focus on getting better and put all of their support behind their teammates.
"Of course you're down right now because you just lost a game," Tate said. "We're going to work hard and come back and get ready for New Mexico State.
"We just try to tell everybody to pick their heads up a little bit and get it going," he added. "You can't dwell on it. We did lose to Mississippi State and nobody wants to lose to Mississippi State but we did. You've got to get ready for New Mexico State."