AUBURN, Ala. — Although it might not have looked like it on the field, Vanderbilt took a page out of Ole Miss’ playbook Saturday against Auburn.
According to Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, the Commodores’ offense tried things in a 23-16 loss to the Tigers that it hadn’t put on film in any of its first eight games of the season. That took Auburn by surprise and allowed Vanderbilt to jump out to a 13-10 halftime lead.
“I think probably the biggest thing was there were a lot of good things that took place in that we had a lot of moving parts out there that were not on the scouting report in terms of on video of what they had done in the past,” Steele said Sunday night.
Vanderbilt’s offense entered the game with a reputation of playing power football behind running back Ralph Webb and rarely going to the air. However, the Commodores threw almost as many times (19) as they ran it (20) in the first half against Auburn.
Quick passing and perimeter running gave Auburn trouble in the first half. For linebacker Darrell Williams, it was some deja vu to a close win the week before at Ole Miss.
“Well, first half, they came out with a lot of new wrinkles that we did not go over,” Williams said Sunday. “That happens all the time. We’ve kind of seen that more and more in the second half of the season. Copy-catting and doing a lot of things that we struggle with and then get right later on.”
Vanderbilt had plenty of time to tweak its offensive strategy ahead of its trip to Auburn. The Commodores played Tennessee State in Week 8 and had an off date in Week 9.
Auburn tried to make the changes on the sidelines to the new offensive strategy from Vanderbilt. However, the bulk of the adjustments couldn’t be made until Steele came down to the locker room at halftime.
“Oh yeah, they came out with a whole bunch of stuff we hadn’t even seen,” junior safety Tray Matthews said. “We had to come in and adjust and what (coach Gus) Malzahn said, respond to adversity. We got on the little chalkboard and drew everything up and made the right adjustments.”
Steele said Vanderbilt used different personnel packages against Auburn that had different looks at both tight end and running back.
That opened things up in the passing game over the middle of the field, where Auburn was already down a couple of key contributors with Tre’ Williams’ injury and Deshaun Davis’ ejection.
“They had a week and there were a lot of new things totally different (from) what they had done,” Steele said. “We were a little bit — and it’s not an excuse — but we were a little concerned going in and then got more concerned after a play.”
After halftime, Auburn allowed only 3 points and 135 yards of offense to Vanderbilt. The turnaround mirrored what the Tigers did in the second half against Ole Miss.
Now, Auburn will have to watch out for the quick-passing tweaks from Georgia, which will use big-armed true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason in this weekend’s matchup. If the Bulldogs do that, Auburn will know how to adjust.
“(Vanderbilt) came right back with them, hoping that they would work,” Williams said. “But coach Steele had a great plan for us, and we executed it. That’s pretty much the key to that.”