"Kodi! Kodi! Kodi!"
Fans cheered and chanted his name.
Burns responded by rushing up the middle for 14 yards and the first down. Then, he handed off to running back Ben Tate, who rushed around right end for three more yards. He hit receiver Robert Dunn with a nine-yard pass for another first down. A few plays later, he hit receiver Mario Fannin with a 16-yard pass. Auburn fans relished every moment of it.
So did Burns, even though Auburn didn't score on the drive. He led the offense into field goal range, but kicker Wes Byrum missed a 35-yard attempt wide left.
"I just want to give praise to God," Burns said. "Everybody's been telling me to wait patiently, and that's what I did. My mom said to wait patiently, and I would get my chance and when I get the opportunity to, take advantage of it. I think that's what I did."
Burns shared playing time with starter Chris Todd in the second half, but earned the confidence of his coaches on a big play late in the fourth quarter. Clinging to a 14-12 lead over the Vols with less than three minutes to play on third down and five, Burns rolled out and threw to Billings, who caught the 10-yard pass for the first down. While it stopped the clock momentarily, it forced Tennessee to burn its last time out.
"All I was thinking was get the first down so we can get out of here and go home and go to practice tomorrow," Burns said. "When they called that play, I knew all I had to do was make a play and get the first down. The coaches told me if you don't see anything, run it. I saw the cornerback drop back just enough and Montez made a great play. I'm not sure it would have been a first down if he hadn't run a little bit with it."
Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said it was head coach Tommy Tuberville's idea to put Burns in the game in the second quarter and to call the pass play for Burns on third down late in the game.
"Coach Tuberville and I talked and he said they had one more timeout, so they were going to be able to stop the clock if we didn't get a first down so he gave me permission to throw the ball so that was a safe pass," Franklin said. "We had three levels on the route and the safest level was the one he took. Montez did a good job of getting open and making a play after he caught the ball."
Tuberville said Burns did what the team needed him to do Saturday.
"He did an excellent job keeping (Tennessee) off-balance and making some plays," Tuberville said. "That's what Kodi can do."
Burns fought Todd for the starting job in the preseason but has seen little action on the field so far this season. Auburn's offense has struggled to learn Franklin's spread offense and has depended heavily on the defense at times to bail it out of tough situations.
Burns said standing on the sidelines and watching Auburn's offense struggle has been hard.
"I've been praying about it and keeping my head up," he said. "The support from friends and family and teammates is keeping me going. It's definitely kind of frustrating as a player and as a quarterback. You want to be out there; you want to be on the field. It's frustrating to be on the sidelines and watch what's going on and there's nothing you can do about it. But what I've done is just taken on the role of cheering on my teammates when they come off the field. You don't know when your name is going to be called. When they call my name, I have to be ready."
He was ready Saturday.
Overall, he completed four-of-six passes for 36 yards, rushed eight times for 16 yards, sealed Auburn's victory with his third-down pass and electrified the Auburn crowd.
"He brings some oomph back into the offense," Mario Fannin said. "He gave the offense some hype."
Afterward, Tuberville said Burns gave everyone a "shot in the arm" and got the fans back into the game. He said the coaches would continue to look at film to determine which quarterback to play. Burns said when they call his name, he will be ready. Game and practice are two different experiences, he said, and getting some playing time was good for him.
"It's real hard to get in a rhythm, but I had my chance and had to take advantage of it," Burns said. "I'm sure when I watch film when I went out there it will be a little bit of street football. I'm not used to pass rushing because in practice the guys really don't rush like that. It was a little bit difficult, but I've got to go into practice each and every day like I've been doing and just get better."
Franklin said that makes two of them.
" I still believe in both quarterbacks," Franklin said. "It's a tough game being a quarterback, especially in this league. They've just got to get some better coaching. I haven't coached them very good so far."