Lots of Positives In Auburn's Win Over Southern Miss

Lester_usm_medium
Brad Lester fights through the rain against USM. - photo by al.com

 

I've seen fire and I've seen rain. That old James Taylor lyric sums up what Auburn fans saw on the field and in the stands during Saturday's 27-13 win over Southern Miss. On a day when most people went home sunburned and soaking wet, Auburn put on a performance that was both masterful and confounding.

It took quarterback Chris Todd less than 10 minutes to throw for more yards than he and Kodi Burns did combined a week earlier against ULM - a team that suddenly looks much better after losing in the closing moments to Arkansas. Eleven Auburn receivers caught passes Saturday, the most in a game since 2005.

On the flip side, the Tigers five fumbles were the most since the 2001 Florida game. Auburn's two touchdown win could and should have been at least twice that much. Tommy Tuberville knows that fumbling like they did Saturday will cost them the SEC West in two weeks.

"It kept them (USM) in the game," said Tuberville. "That is part of it. Hopefully, we got it out of our system. Eric Smith's fumble right there at the end is a true no-no when you are trying to run the clock out. We gave them an opportunity to possibly get back in the game. We learned from all of these situations with our young guys playing.

"We fumbled twice in the red zone. We have to get better. Last year, I think in the second game we played we turned it over a lot of times and couldn't win the game. We turned it over a few times, but our defense stood up and kept us in the ball game and got the ball back in good field position. It was a good team game. It was truly a team game."

The biggest news of course, came at quarterback where Chris Todd put a strangle hold on the starting job. It's apparent that Todd has a much stronger and deeper grasp of how Tony Franklin's system works. My guess is the battle is far from over and Tuberville seemed to indicate that on Sunday.

"He's (Burns) been supportive of Chris and Chris of him," said Tuberville. "You've got to move on. We're going into the conference. He's been a big part of what we've been doing and he'll continue that. That's not to say in a couple of week's he's not the starter. That's how the business goes."

Through the first two games, Todd has completed more than 60 percent of his passes, racking up 318 yards through the air with a touchdown and an interception. Burns has been less successful throwing the ball, completing only 4 of 14 passes for 14 yards and one interception.

Running the ball is another story. Burns has rushed for 68 yards on eight attempts and scored once. Look for Burns to become a situational quarterback in the coming weeks. Inside the five yard line it's darn near impossible to keep him out of the end-zone as Southern Miss learned Saturday.

With all eyes on the quarterback you may have missed what was happening on the offensive line. Hugh Nall's guys turned in one of the great performances in recent memory. They manhandled the Golden Eagle defensive line and gave Todd enough time to drink a beer back there before throwing the ball. And what makes it even more impressive is how they did it - with a make shift lineup due to injuries.

Ryan Pugh moved from right tackle to center, replacing Jason Bosley who started at Pugh's position. Bosley has been nursing a sore shoulder that has made it difficult to snap the ball when lined up in the shotgun formation. Needless to say, it went off without a hitch.

Ninth-ranked Auburn takes on Miss State from Starkville on Saturday night at 6 p.m. CT. The game will be televised by ESPN 2. Keep your eye on Hurricane Ike this week. Where he makes landfall could have an impact on the weather. The game has the potential to be very wet. The Bulldogs enter the contest with a 1-1 record after defeating Southeast Louisiana 34-10 on Saturday.

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