Auburn led 13-0 after a quarter and racked up 126 yards of total offense to just 17 for the home team. However, the rest of the evening Auburn's offense managed no points and just 82 more yards.
It didn't matter if it was Chris Todd or Kodi Burns at quarterback or whether they were operating in the shotgun formation or under center. Auburn's offense was truly offensive after the opening period to the 15,000-plus Auburn fans in the house at Vanderbilt Stadium.
In every scenario after the first quarter, the offense came up short on a night the defense played well enough to win despite losing its two best players (cornerback Jerraud Powers and tackle Sen'Derrick Marks) to hamstring and ankle injuries.
"They played hard, they played well," Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville said of a Vanderbilt team that improved to 3-0 in the SEC and 5-0 overall. "They made plays in the second half. We didn't make any.
"I want to thank our players how they played in terms of effort," said Tuberville, who was critical of the coaching. He singled himself out and the offensive coaching, too. "We played hard. I thought they figured out a few things defensively on our offense in the second half and we weren't able to run the ball. I think we had four yards (in the second half). You can't beat anybody with four yards.
"I apologize to the players for not giving them a chance in the second half," Tuberville added. "We didn't make very good adjustments. You can't take anything away from Vanderbilt. I am not going to get in here and make a bunch of excuses. They played well all year long. They made plays.
"The first half we had one penalty, the second half we had 10 penalties," said Tuberville, who wouldn't allow his coordinators, Tony Franklin and Paul Rhoads, to do postgame interviews. "You aren't going to beat anybody doing that so there is not a lot to say. This but this one is my fault and we are going to go back to work tomorrow."
Todd hit 8-16 passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. He threw a pass on Auburn's final play of the game with the Tigers backed up on their own three-yard line and no timeouts left 2:16 to play.
Burns completed 2-6 passes for 28 yards and ran the ball six times of minus 11 yards. Ben Tate was the only offensive player with solid stats. He carried the ball 27 times for 108 yards.
The Auburn defense came out strong, forcing a three-and-out on the opening possession for the Commodores.
Auburn then went to work running the football straight at the Commodores, a strategy that worked until the Tigers got to a first and goal to go situation at the Vandy one.
After being stopped for no gain on third down at the one, Tate was stopped again on fourth down at left guard on the 10th consecutive rushing play of the drive.
The Tigers got the ball back four plays later at midfield and used the good field position to score. The longest plays were runs of 12 yards by Todd and 11 by Brad Lester, who carried the ball just two times.
It took the Tigers nine plays to put the ball in the end zone. On third and goal at the seven, Todd hit Rod Smith over the middle for the touchdown with 4:09 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers scored exactly one minute later following an interception by Jerraud Powers, whose diving play gave Auburn the football at the Vandy 27.
After a run by Tate lost a yard, the Tigers lined up in a shotgun formation with five receivers. Mario Fannin got behind the Vandy linebacker and caught a pass in the end zone. Auburn led 13-0 when Wes Byrum's PAT kick failed. At the time, with Auburn off to a strong start, that seemed to be just a minor problem.
That ended the scoring until the closing minute of the first half. The Commodores used a 21-yard punt return by D.J. Moore to start in great field position at the AU 30.
Six plays later, with 39 seconds left before intermission, backup QB Mackenzi Adams on third and goal to go from the 15 hit Justin Wheeler in the end zone for a touchdown. Bryant Hahnfeldt's PAT cut the Auburn lead to 13-7. Also worrisome for the Tigers was that Marks and Powers went down with injuries in the first half and were going to be unavailable the rest of the way.
Adams was the star of the game offensively. He ran for 54 yards on 13 carries and completed 13-23 passes for 153 yards and two TDs in relief of Chris Nickson, who was 3-8 for four yards with one interception.
Vandy had the first scoring opportunity of the second half, but didn't capitalize when Hahnfeldt was wide left on a field goal from 40 yards out with 11:47 left in the third quarter. The Commodores got the ball after forcing a three-and-out for the Auburn offense after a block in the back on the kickoff forced the Tigers to start at their own nine.
Senior defensive lineman Tez Doolittle tries to make a play on the Vandy QB in the end zone.
The Commodores scored on their second possession of the third period. A big play was a third and seven pass from Adams to Justin Wheeler for 13 yards. Another pass to Wheeler for 18 yards moved Vandy into scoring position at the AU. Two plays later, Adams rolled out and hit tight end Brandon Barden in the back of the end zone for a one-yard TD pass. The PAT put the home team up 14-13 with 7:09 left in the third quarter and that ended the scoring.
After Todd couldn't move the offense on the next possession, Auburn got good field position after Jake Ricks blocked a 49-yard field goal attempt. Auburn took over at its own 47 with Burns running the offense. The sophomore hit a third down crossing route pass for 24 yards to Fannin for a first down at the Vandy 28.
However, a holding call on the next play negated a four-yard Burns run. Three incomplete passes later, Auburn appeared to be attempting a 51-yard field goal. However, there was a delay of game that Tuberville said was intentional because the original plan was to fake the field goal and punt, but Vandy had a safety. The Tigers took the penalty and punted. That was their last scoring opportunity of the night on their last possession of the third quarter.
Auburn managed just two first downs and 11 yards in the fourth quarter to fall to 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC.
The Tigers return to action next week with a 4 p.m. home game vs. Arkansas.