Auburn-Vanderbilt: Tigers on the Prowl

Leon WynnAnalyst IOctober 7, 2007 Auburn’s upset victory in the Swamp, many wondered if the Tigers would be able to get up for Vanderbilt.

Tommy Tuberville's team answered the skeptics with a 35-7 win over the Commodores.

The Tigers scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions to take a 28-0 halftime lead, thanks largely to the strong arm of Brandon Cox and newfound depth in the backfield.

Brad Lester scored two TDs and rushed for 77 yards in his season debut. Lester had been out since last year’s Cotton Bowl on academic suspension.

The biggest improvement came on the Auburn offensive line, where three true freshman starters—tackles Lee Ziemba and Ryan Pugh and guard Chaz Ramsey—are finally earning their stripes. the first half, Auburn outgained Vanderbilt 324 yards to 66. All three Tiger tailbacks took advantage of the holes opened by the O-line—Ben Tate had a four-yard touchdown and a 44-yard run to set up another; Mario Fannin ran for 21 yards and a 22-yard touchdown on back-to-back carries; and Lester spun out of a defender's grasp for a 17-yard score.

The Commodores came into Saturday with a two-game winning streak, but didn't score until Cassen Jackson-Garrison’s 1-yard run with 4:57 left. The drive was kept alive by two pass interference calls against Auburn's Walter McFadden.

Vandy's Mackenzi Adams took over for a struggling Chris Nickson at quarterback in the second half. The Tigers were able to pressure both QBs consistently despite playing without four starting defenders, including star defensive end Quentin Groves.

Cox, for his part, completed 14 of 17 passes for 165 yards with a touchdown and an interception in three quarters. Cox has been widely criticized by Auburn fans, but revived his season with a stellar performance against Florida.

Two of Cox's three incomplete passes against Vandy were the fault of the receiver.

On the whole, this Auburn team seems to have ice water running through its veins. This certainly isn't the same squad we saw against Kansas State and Mississippi State—the Tigers' rotations are keeping their legs fresh, their confidence level is at a season high, and they're performing like a top-tier team.

This Auburn fan only wishes the season could have started like this—then maybe we'd see another Tiger team in the Top 10.

On the milestone front, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville picked up his 100th career win in his 12th SEC season. Vandy receiver Earl Bennett broke the school's career receptions mark with his 201st catch midway through the third quarter.

The SEC's leading receiver was held to a season-low 31 yards on four catches.

(AP Photos/John Bazemore)