Auburn, Ala.--It was a perfect offensive game as far as Auburn Coach Al Borges was concerned. Any game when the offense can take the ball needing a first down to put the game away and come through, he says that's what makes you smile.
That was exactly the case for the Auburn Tigers Saturday night against rival Alabama in the annual Iron Bowl. Recovering an onside kick at the Alabama 39 with 2:11 left on the clock and the Crimson Tide holding two time outs, the Tigers converted a huge fourth and one with a 12-yard Brad Lester run to seal the deal. Borges says in the end that's what it's all about.
"What's really nice is we didn't put our defense back on the field at the end of the game," Borges says. "I didn't want them to have to do that again. In that regard I was excited about that.
"That's more exciting than a two-minute drill in my opinion," he adds. "When you can run the clock out and finish the game that way, to me, that is more exciting because they know you're going to run it. They know what you're going to do. If you're able to do it, it's really a great feeling."
It was a good finish to an otherwise ordinary night for Auburn's offense as the Tigers finished with just 165 yards on the ground and 117 passing yards for 282 total offensive yards. That was enough though as 10 first quarter points and a late touchdown proved to be just what Auburn needed for its sixth consecutive victory over Alabama.
"We had a nice plan," Borges says. "We missed some opportunities, but we had a nice plan. The kids for the most part executed the way we wanted to."
That plan was pretty simple. Keep Alabama guessing on defense and run the football. It proved to work as Brad Lester pounded the Crimson Tide for 98 yards on 22 carries while Benjamin Tate chipped in with 77 on just 11 carries. Borges says the running game is a function of the entire offense, including quarterback Brandon Cox.
"We just pounded the ball nicely and we pounded the ball at them for the most part," Borges says. "We ran the ball at them for the most part. We had a couple of wide plays, but we ran the ball at them. That was really our plan, to use a lot of movement and shift guys quite a bit and try to get their cleats off the ground and pound it."
Cox's job in the running game looks minimal, but it's just the opposite. On close to half of Auburn's offense snaps, the senior changed the play to put the Tigers in a better position to run the ball. While his offensive numbers weren't staggering in the passing game, Borges says Cox did his job and that is win yet another football game.
"He was a little hot and cold, but for the most part he did a good job of putting us in some good plays which helps our running game as much as anything," Borges says. "They overloaded the defense a couple of times to some of our bunch looks and he audibled out and got us into some good plays. He missed a few throws, but he made some good ones too. He played fairly efficiently other than the one interception. He wasn't great, but he was good. He played solid.
"He's always been a resilient guy," Borges adds. "Every time someone starts thinking he's a lousy quarterback, he proves them wrong. Say what you want, but that kid has won a ton of games here. He's beaten his cross state rival three times now as a starting quarterback. In that regard I can't tell you how invaluable I think he is."
Even with the offense stagnant at times, in the end it came down to the unit making one final drive to ice the game. Facing that crucial fourth down, Borges says he turned to Coach Tommy Tuberville to see what he wanted to do and immediately got the feedback he was looking for.
Walking on the field and taking the entire offense to the line of scrimmage, Borges pointed to the first down marker to show the group just what they needed for the victory. One yard proved to be minimal in contrast with Auburn's performance on the night, but huge in the grand scheme of things in this rivalry. After all, it's all about winning.
"Tubs said ‘we're not kicking a field goal so forget it'," Borges says. "That was an easy decision. I had two plays ready and he goes ‘we're not kicking a field goal'. He called a time out and I called them all over and made them look at how far it was. I said ‘it's that much to beat Alabama. How much does it matter to you?."