But Saturday was a game of missed opportunities and what could have been for the Auburn Tigers as the offense moved the ball well at times both on the ground and through the air, but came up short in the red zone in a 17-13 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. Considering the opponent, it was also Kodi Burns' most consistent game as the threw for 179 yards and ran for 28 on 14 attempts.
It was his play in the fourth quarter that showed his capabilities as a quarterback though. Through three quarters Burns was just 8-13 for 82 yards as Auburn only managed 128 yards of total offense. In the final period alone Burns completed 8-17 passes for 97 yards as Auburn gained 175 yards. Coach Tommy Tuberville said that late showing, although it didn't equate to a win, showed something about the character of Burns.
"Kodi Burns played 70 plays and I think he did an excellent job except for about four play where he didn't make the right reads," Tuberville said. "When you have that many plays you're going to make mistakes. He went to the right side most of the time in terms of throwing the ball.
"He looked a lot more comfortable. For a guy that hasn't had a lot of starts that was a tough game for him. They gave him a lot of different scenarios. He handled most of it real well. I was proud of how he grew up and proud of how he led the team."
Offensively one of the bright spots came from sophomore Mario Fannin. Carrying the ball just eight times, Fannin rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown. He also caught four passes for 48 yards, including a 52-yard score from Burns. The question immediately following Saturday's game was why so few touches for the obvious star of the game offensively and why wasn't he in late in the game? Tuberville said there were several reasons why they chose to use Ben Tate more late in the game.
"I think we threw the ball 23 of the last 30 times and we haven't had enough time with him in terms of protections and those things," Tuberville said. "He's getting better and better. Ben has been there and done that. He understands it a lot better. He was in on some passing plays, but when it got into a situation where we knew we had to throw the ball then Mario wasn't in there quite as much.
"With two weeks to prepare for this game it shouldn't be a problem again. He was also a little beat up because he played most of the special teams too. At the end of the game like that it becomes a mental as well as a physical game. He's not quite there yet not having played tailback much this year."
Defensively the story of the game was the recovery on defense after a terrible first quarter. The Tigers allowed 158 yards of total offense on just 17 plays to Georgia in the first 15 minutes, but didn't allow a point. After that Auburn held the Bulldogs to just 193 yards the rest of the way. Tuberville said much of the credit for the play of the defense goes to the cornerbacks.
"Our corners really played well," Tuberville said. "It's the first time we've had them back healthy. Jerraud Powers and (Walter) McFadden had their best day in terms of covering good receivers. They played a lot of man coverage and they were physical. They really did a good job. That allows everybody else to play well."
On the injury front the Tigers could be without two key players as junior tight end Tommy Trott injured a knee during the game and will be evaluated this week. Bothered by a sore right knee, kicker Wes Byrum was pulled from duty at halftime on Saturday and will also be evaluated this week. Tuberville said there's a good chance that Morgan Hull will handle the kicking duties against Alabama in two weeks.
The Tigers will take Sunday and Monday off before returning to the practice field on Tuesday. With an off week the team will go Tuesday-Friday before taking Saturday off. With no school next week the team will practice Sunday-Thursday before heading to Tuscaloosa.