Not So Successful Debut
Auburn had been waiting all summer to unveil its new spread offense, but the Tigers never really got to test it out during their season-opening victory.
Coach Tommy Tuberville hopes some newfound certainty at quarterback and another week of preparation can get the wide-open scheme in gear when the No. 9 Tigers host Southern Mississippi on Saturday.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Auburn -18 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 54% of bets for this game have been placed on Auburn -18 (View College Football bet percentages).
Auburn's offense ranked 107th nationally in passing and 101st in total yards last season, prompting Tuberville to hire former Troy offensive coordinator Tony Franklin to take over after the regular season.
The results were immediate, as the Tigers rolled up a season-high 423 yards in their 23-20 overtime win over Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The performance seemed to indicate what Auburn opponents could expect in 2008.
Auburn defeated Louisiana-Monroe 34-0 in last Saturday's season opener, but most of its offense came from a more traditional area - the running game.
Kodi Burns and Chris Todd combined for 28 yards passing through the third quarter, and finished with 85 for the game. Only three of the Tigers' 19 first downs came through the air, which wasn't a problem as their rushing attack amassed 321 yards.
"I looked up and we've got 28 yards passing in the first three quarters, as much as we've worked on the passing game,'' Tuberville said. "That obviously wasn't what we were looking for. It will definitely get better. When you've got a good running game, it gives you a good start.''
Franklin also expected much better.
"We stink, and it's my fault,'' he said. "I just did a really poor job coaching this week. The offense was ugly.''
Tuberville announced Tuesday that Todd, who was 9-of-18 for 70 yards with one touchdown and an interception, will take over the quarterbacking duties Saturday. Burns started the opener under a platoon system, but left in the third quarter with a cut on his leg and didn't return. Tuberville said Burns wouldn't play unless he's fully recovered.
Franklin hopes with Burns on the bench, Todd can relax and not worry about one bad play costing him a chance to stay in the game.
"Probably the biggest thing was that neither one of (the quarterbacks) ever got into a rhythm and that's my fault, the way I rotated them," Franklin said.
While the passing game is still working out the kinks, the Tigers' ground attack appears ready to roll. Junior Ben Tate rushed for a team-high 115 yards on 13 carries, freshman Eric Smith gained 66 yards and senior Brad Lester finished with 52, including a 3-yard touchdown.
"We're going to have some growing pains with this offense,'' Tuberville said, "but any time you rush for 300 yards you've had a pretty good night.''
Southern Mississippi had an even better rushing performance in its season-opening 51-21 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, gaining 427 yards on the ground.
Damion Fletcher ran for a career-high 222 yards and two touchdowns as Southern Mississippi racked up a school-record 633 yards of offense in Larry Fedora's debut as coach.
"That's just one down and a bunch to go," said Fedora, formerly the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. "We did some good things offensively and on defense we created some opportunities for us to take advantage of. That's always a good combination."
It may be much more difficult to put up those kind of offensive numbers against the Tigers, who held Louisiana-Monroe to 220 total yards and 84 on the ground.
Auburn leads the series with Southern Miss 16-5. The schools haven't met since the Tigers won 35-24 in 1993.
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