Offensive coordinator Al Borges was beaming in the postgame locker room after the Tigers won their third straight game to improve their record to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the SEC.
"We hurt them for so long it was time that we held up our end of it," Borges said. "The first couple of games we put them in so many bad spots, we owe them. They have played so well, so hard, so consistently and now we have just got to take care of them because they have been taking care us."
The defense continued to hold up its end, too, despite missing four starters with injuries as Tray Blackmon, Aairon Savage, Quentin Groves and Merrill Johnson watched from the sidelines. At times in the fourth quarter, the Tigers played as many as eight freshmen on the field.
"That is something I never dreamed we would be doing back in the preseason," said Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who said he was extremely proud of how the defense played on a day in which the Tigers came close to shutting out what Muschamp said was a good offensive team.
The Commodores didn't score until the game was decided and that TD came against the Auburn backups and was aided by penalties, several which were questionable at best.
Any time in the game the Vandy offense was in a position to threaten the Auburn goal line, the Tigers stepped up and made big defensive plays. "That is what great teams do, or very good teams do like Auburn," said Vandy coach Bobby Johnson, whose team fell to 3-2. "They rise to the occasion and make plays when they need to."
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said the Commodores ran into an Auburn team that played very well after he and his staff went into the game "scared to death" the Tigers would be flat after last week's win at Florida.
"We are starting to come together as a team," said Tuberville, who called the defensive effort "tremendous" vs. the Commodores. "We still have to understand with injuries and youth, we still have a lot to do."
Tuberville and Muschamp liked what they saw from the pass defense as the Tigers kept Vandy star Earl Bennett in check. He caught four passes for 31 yards, and was never a factor in the game.
"Coach Muschamp had a good game plan and we got up on their receivers and dared them to beat us deep," said senior cornerback Pat Lee. "I thought we did a good job in the secondary and our guys up front did a good job of getting pressure on their quarterbacks."
AU's defense completely frustrated Vandy starter Chris Nickson, who was pulled at halftime after completing just 5-16 passes for 35 yards. "Auburn has a great team," he said. "I didn't see us getting completely stopped the way we did."
Meanwhile, the Auburn offense rushed for four scores, including two by junior Brad Lester, who made his 2007 debut an impressive one with 13 carries for 77 yards as the Tigers rushed for 239 yards.
Ben Tate rushed for 99 yards on nine carries with one TD and Mario Fannin chipped in with 54 yards on 11 carries and one TD.
Brandon Cox came out sharp for a third straight week and completed 14-17 passes for 165 yards with one TD and one interception, the only turnover of the game for the Tigers on a day when the 1957 national championship team was honored.
The Tigers came out in white uniforms to honor the team from half a century ago that wore white at home and the 2007 Tigers played like champions themselves in the first half to put the game on ice by intermission.
The Tigers won the toss and deferred. At first that didn't look like a good idea as the Commodores quickly moved the ball into Auburn territory.
The Tigers looked to have a stop, but a facemask penalty on Antonio Coleman on third down gave the visitors a first down at Tiger 35. However, Auburn's defense made a stand there and forced a punt.
After a punt into the end zone, the Tigers put together one of their most impressive drives of the year, marching 80 yards on nine plays.
It didn't take long for Brad Lester to make his debut as he ran for eight yards and a first down at right end on the fourth play of the possession. Six different players touched the ball on the way to the end zone. Tate powered in at right guard on first and goal for the score with 7:02 remaining in the opening quarter.
The offense scored again on possession number two as the Tigers marched 74 yards on just seven plays. The big gainer was a 44-yard run by Tate, who hit the hole up the middle hard and then cut left.
Cox, on a third and goal at the two, scrambled to the left in front of the Auburn student section, buying enough time for Rodgeriqus Smith to break free in the end zone for the touchdown catch. Wes Byrum's kick put the Tigers up 14-0 with 7:02 left in the first quarter.
After a three and out for the Commodores, the Tigers drove 51 yards on just four plays following a short punt.
Fannin raced through a hole up the middle and rumbled 22 yards for Auburn's third score on the second play of the second quarter. At that point of the game, AU held a 205-43 edge in total yardage to go with the 21-0 lead.
Vanderbilt got its first defensive stop on Auburn's next possession and got the ball in great field position at the Tiger 35, but three plays later they were at the same spot and punted the ball back to the Tigers.
Auburn followed that with one of its best drives of the season, moving from just outside the seven yard line to a touchdown in 11 plays. The play that got the drive moving was a third down 24-yard pass from Cox to Montez Billings to put the Tigers in business at their own 35.
Lester got his first touchdown of the season on a 22-yard run on a third and one play. He broke a tackle about halfway to the end zone and sailed head first into the end zone for six more points as the Tigers took a 28-0 lead with 3:29 left in the half.
The only downer of the first half for the Tigers was that center Jason Bosley was helped off the field with an injury, which was reported to be a knee sprain. That meant true freshman Ryan Pugh took over at center and King Dunlap took over for Pugh at left tackle.
Despite not scoring on their first possession of the third quarter, the Tigers kept the pressure on Vandy when the defense set up the next touchdown.
Cornerback Pat Lee makes an interception for the Tigers.
At halftime the Tigers enjoyed a 324-66 lead in total offense. Cox was 11-13 passing for 140 yards while Vandy QB Chris Nickson was 5-16 for 38 yards.
Vandy backup QB Mackenzi Adams got the call to start the second half when Nickson struggled in the first half.
McKenzie managed to get the Vandy offense off the goal line after a 50-yard punt by Ryan Shoemaker, but after two first downs the Tiger defense took the ball away. Linebacker Craig Stevens deflected a pass into the arms of cornerback Lee, who returned the football to the Vandy 10.
Lester ran for five yards at left end and on the next play, with three tight ends in the game, the tailback showed his very quick feet. He started around right end and then cut inside for a five-yard score with 8:57 left in the third quarter. That put the Tigers up 35-0.
Vandy then got good field position with a 49-yard kickoff return to the Tiger 41. After getting a first down, Vandy was held again as Zac Etheridge and Coleman sacked Adams for an 11-yard loss on fourth down.
The defense made another fourth down stand after Auburn's first turnover of the day as Cox was intercepted trying to hit Tommy Trott on a sideline route. The Commodores started at the Tiger 26, but were frustrated again. Lee's perfect coverage on fourth down ended the threat.
The Tigers played subs in the fourth quarter as they coasted home for a 35-7 victory prior to heading to Arkansas next Saturday for another SEC test.