Atlanta, Ga.--When Tony Franklin was hired by Tommy Tuberville on Dec. 12 it marked a change in the way the Auburn offense would be handled. Instead of depending on a power running game and play-action passing, the Tigers would instead spread the field out of the shotgun formation.
If the results Monday night were any indication following just nine days of practice time, the thought of nine months into Franklin's offense had Auburn offensive players absolutely giddy following an emotional 23-20 win over Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Franklin says as much as he would like to take all the credit, the win would not have been possible without some help from Auburn's current coaching staff.
"It was a great job by Coach (Tommy) Tuberville number one in having faith in me that we could put this in in nine days," Franklin says. "Then the assistant coaches had to buy in and have faith and they did because if they didn't do it the players would have never bought it. They did a great job coaching it."
While they had to help coach it, it was Franklin that implemented the system that put up some pretty impressive numbers against a defense that entered the game ranked sixth in the nation in total defense, 10th in scoring defense and 13th in pass defense. Giving up an average of just 297 yards and 18.3 points this year, Clemson surrendered 423 yards and 24 first downs to Auburn's new offense.
Much of the damage for Auburn came on the ground as the Tigers ran for 190 yards on 47 attempts. Running a fast-paced attack that was only under center for one play in the game, a key quarterback sneak on fourth and one in overtime, Auburn threw the ball another 43 times for 233 yards. Franklin says that while the passing was nice, it was on the ground where Auburn did its most damage.
"You've got to run the ball," Franklin says. "It's just a mixture of a lot of things that you do until you find out what you can do really good. We ran the ball well all night and that's what we needed to do. Brandon made a great play on the third and long. He made a big-time throw on that. We had a good rotation with those two and kept them off balance a little bit."
One of the keys to the victory was the play of true freshman quarterback Kodi Burns. A forgotten man since the Arkansas game, Burns ran the ball 13 times for 69 yards and added a 22-yard touchdown pass to Mario Fannin. The mixture of Burns and Brandon Cox was just what the doctor ordered for Franklin's offense.
"It was just trying to do what they both do well," Franklin says. "Trying to run this offense you need a guy that can run some at least. Kodi is definitely a better runner than Brandon. We tried to mix it in and out and limit Kodi's passing because of some things he's limited with right now. We think we can fix it though. He got a lot better in those few days we practiced with his motion. There was just a couple of little things. It was a good way to try to do what they do best."
In the end that was the difference between winning and losing as Burns and Cox both made big plays down the stretch for the offense with back-to-back key plays by Cox on a third and 15 strike to Rod Smith and then a quarterback sneak for a first down. Then it was time for Burns to seal the deal as his seven-yard touchdown run put a capper on a great coming out party for Franklin and the new Auburn offense.
"He's a great player and great players make plays and make you look smart," Franklin says. "That was a big-time play. The o-line did a great job of knocking them off the ball. We got them tired and knocked them off the ball."