Tigers Overcome Turnovers for 27-13 Win

Auburn improved its football record to 2-0 with a victory over Southern Miss. The game report features player comments and statistics.

Auburn, Ala.--The Tigers overcame four turnovers that made their second football win of the season more difficult than it needed to be as Auburn defeated Southern Miss 27-13 on on a rainy, steamy Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Coach Tommy Tuberville said Chris Todd, who made his first Auburn start, played well enough to move to number one on the depth chart at quarterback going into next week's SEC opener.

Todd completed 21-31 passes for 248 yards and looked better than he did in week one as the Tigers took a 24-0 lead with him in charge of the offense before giving up their first points of the year following an ill-advised pass by Kodi Burns, which allowed the Golden Eagles to drive 25 yards for a touchdown with 2:33 left in the third quarter.

Burns was 0-3 passing with an interception after being listed as questionable by Tuberville due to a cut on his leg in game one that required stitches.

The way the Tigers had been running and passing the football up to the point of Burns' interception that set up the first USM score, the Tigers should have had a larger margin to work with senior offensive guard Tyrone Green noted.

"I thought the offense moved the ball better and we were a lot sharper than we were in the first game," said Green, who pointed out that the offense he expected to see in week one was on display in game two.

"We had a good, intense week of practice on offense and we expected to move the ball," Green said. "The big thing for us to emphasize this week is eliminating the turnovers. If we do that, we will be in good shape to open the SEC season.

Commenting on the quarterback situation, Tuberville said, "Kodi got a little lackadaisical. You can't come in and do what he did. Every snap in college football is important. He took it for granted that he could throw the ball downfield. It got tipped and it was a good lesson learned. You don't play much when you do that.

"You have to stay focused," Tuberville added. "When you go into the game, you have to have a sense of urgency like everybody else. You learn from those situations. Chris did a good job, and barring anything happening, he will be our starter next week."

Ben Tate led the Tigers in both rushing and receiving. He had 15 carries for 71 yards and three catches for 51 yards. Eleven Tigers caught passes with Tommy Trott, Montez Billings and Mario Fannin having three apiece.

Ben Tate runs in the rain during the second half Saturday.

Southern Miss star Damion Fletcher, who rushed for 222 yards last week, finished the game with 29 rushing yards on 13 carries. Bubba Kirksey, who rushed for 110 last week for the Golden Eagles, gained eight yards on two carries as the visitors netted just 37 yards on 27 carries after racking more than 400 yards rushing in the opener.

Jerraud Powers led the Auburn defense with six solo tackles, two assists and an interception. Merrill Johnson added six tackles as did Mike McNeil.

"We were hoping to get another shutout, but we did some good things out there on defense," said Johnson. "I thought we were really good in the first half."

The Tigers finally scored on their fourth offensive possession following the two fumbles to end excellent scoring opportunities followed by a punt from the Southern Miss 36.

Lester's fumble into the end zone at the end of an 11-yard run ended the opening drive after Auburn kept the ball for 10 plays and moved it 73 yards. The Tigers had moved 64 yards on six plays before Tate turned the ball over on the Southern Miss 15 to end Auburn's second possession vs. the Golden Eagles.

Robert Dunn's 32-yard punt return up the middle set up a six-play scoring drive that covered 26 yards. Tate scored on third and goal from the one, just barely getting across the goal at left end to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead.

Southern Miss managed a first down on the next possession, but that was it before punting the ball out of bounds away from Dunn giving the Tigers possession at their 24.

Auburn then raced down the field on the passing of Todd before scoring from 13-yards out as Tristan Davis tight-roped the sideline on his first run of the season. That put the home team up 14-0 with 8:23 left in the second quarter.

Southern Miss finally put together a drive, moving to a first and goal just outside the 10-yard line, but that was a close as the Golden Eagles could get with time running out in first half.

The defense made a stand, forcing the visitors to settle for a 44-yard field goal try by Britt Barefoot on the final play of the second quarter that sailed wide left.

At intermission the Tigers held a 230-83 advantage in total offense. The passing game more than doubled game one's total by intermission as Todd completed 14-19 passes for 167 yards.

The defense picked up where it left off after halftime, forcing a three and out after Morgan Hull got his first chance to kick off in the game and put the ball into the end zone for a touchback.

With help of a number of good blocks, Dunn returned the punt to the USM end zone, but the play was called back by a block below the waist way behind the play by freshman Christian Thompson forcing the Tigers to start at the USM 33.

Burns made his first appearance at QB, but the Tigers couldn't move the ball and had to settle for a 52-yard field goal kick by Wes Byrum, which was low but straight, giving the Tigers a 17-0 lead.

The Tigers stretched the lead to 24-0 later in the third quarter by driving 75 yards on 12 plays with Todd at QB except for the last play as Burns scored from a yard out on a keeper.

After a quick three and out forced by the Auburn defense, Burns got another chance to direct the offense. He looked like he was going to run the football, but threw on the run and his pass in the flat was intercepted by C.J. Bailey, who returned it 15 yards to the AU 25. Burns made a tackle to prevent a touchdown on the play.

The Tigers had a chance to escape without damage after the turnover, but on fourth down and 10 QB Austin Davis found freshman Deandre Brown for an 11-yard gainer as Auburn blitzed the linebackers and couldn't get to the QB in time. Two plays later, Davis completed a one-yard pass in the back of the end zone to Shawn Nelson for a score. A pass for two was defended by Zac Etheridge to keep the score at 24-6.

"We were hoping to get another shutout so that one hurt," said cornerback Walt McFadden, who added that he thought the Tigers played a solid game defensively, holding a team that racked up 633 yards in week one to 305.

The Golden Eagles had their best drive of the game in the fourth quarter, moving 90 yards on 11 plays to cut the lead to 24-13. The big play was a fourth down and 16 pass to Shawn Nelson for 22 yards to the Auburn 17. Two plays later, Nelson caught a 17-yard pass with 11:48 to play. He caught 12 passes for 118 yards and two TDs.

Auburn needed to respond with a drive and the Tigers did that, moving 70 yards on 10 plays before settling for a 23-yard field goal from Byrum to make the score 27-13 with 7:06 left.

The Tigers' fourth turnover of the game came from freshman running back Eric Smith, who fumbled the football with 4:13 left as the Tigers were trying to run out the clock after an interception by Jerraud Powers.

The Golden Eagles kept the ball for four plays before Zac Etheridge got it back with an interception with 3:36.

Auburn then ran three plays and punted the ball to the Eagles, who took over at their own 47. They moved to the Auburn 25 before being stopped as defensive end Michael Goggans stopped QB Davis on a keeper for no gain.

"The coaches weren't happy with our tempo last week, but this week we really emphasized that and I think we did a lot better with that," Green said. "Our whole mindset was tempo, tempo, tempo and try to hit the in the mouth early. I thought we improved with that and I think we are ready to play an SEC game."

The Tigers return to action next Saturday at Mississippi State. Kickoff time is 6 p.m. for a game that will be televised by ESPN2.

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