The No. 8 Tigers (5-0, 3-0 SEC) overwhelmed the No. 10 Vols from the start, taking a 31-3 halftime lead, preventing any semblance of a Tennessee comeback in the second half, and quashing the enthusiasm of the Tennessee fans.
"We had something to prove," coach Tommy Tuberville said. "A lot of people were doubting that we could play a good team on the road. I think we caught them by surprise."
Nothing seemed more surprising than the play of the quarterbacks. Tennessee's true freshman quarterbacks, Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer, struggled to get things going for the Vols. Ainge, making his first start after three strong performances, got the attention of Auburn players early in the week when he questioned the ability of the defensive backs to handle Tennessee's receivers. Auburn made him pay with four interceptions.
"We wanted to get after Ainge because he was talking a lot of trash," said Auburn safety Junior Rosegreen, who came through in a big way with four interceptions. "He wrote a big check with what he said. We wanted to make sure he didn't cash it."
Schaeffer didn't pay off, either, throwing one interception in his five pass attempts and rushing for only six yards on four carries.
"We knew that they were young and they haven't faced a defense like us," Rosegreen said.
While Ainge and Schaeffer suffered from youthful mistakes, Auburn put the game on the shoulders of its fifth-year senior quarterback, Jason Campbell.
Campbell turned to his audibles time and time again and made play after play, completing 16 of 23 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns. He passed for 240 yards in the first half, more than his total for any of the first four games, and completed passes of 46, 38, 32 and 31 yards to four different receivers.
"All day long I heard about these two other quarterbacks on television, and they never mentioned Jason," Tuberville said. "But it was his demeanor that helped us win this game.
"We decided late in the week to let Jason check off at the line. People don't realize how well he did. Most of the plays he threw down the field he checked to."
Now, check out Auburn: the Tigers are one of only two undefeated teams in the SEC, along with No. 3 Georgia. The Tigers also own two victories over Top 10 teams in a three-week span, having defeated LSU 10-9 on Sept. 18. In the process, the Tigers moved up to sixth in the AP poll.
"We had to prove we deserved to be a Top 10 team," offensive tackle Marcus McNeill said. "Beating Tennessee was a big, big win for us."
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Jason Campbell -- He not only played like a capable senior, but he also played like a talented quarterback, completing 16 of 23 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns and making play after play to help the Tigers take a dominating 31-3 halftime lead.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Safety Junior Rosegreen -- He was willing to help the team by playing cornerback last year, but he's a better playmaker at safety. That was evident in the Tennessee game when he tied an SEC record with four interceptions. He also added six tackles and helped teammate Tommy Jackson secure a fumble recovery.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "All week long I heard about how great their two quarterbacks are. I wouldn't trade them for the one we've got. He played a heck of a game." -- Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville on quarterback Jason Campbell.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Tigers have an outstanding running game, but they're also proving they can make plays with their passing game and give opponents problems with their offensive balance.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: After rolling for 333 yards of offense in the first half, the Tigers gained only 67 yards in the second half. The Tigers still won easily and didn't need to run up the score, but offensive coordinator Al Borges later admitted he probably should have been a little more aggressive.
ROSTER REPORT: The Tigers appear to have survived without any significant new injuries to key players, and RB Ronnie Brown returned from a hamstring injury to run for 57 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. He also caught a team-high six passes for 79 yards.