AUBURN, Ala. — The Tigers did it again.
A week after winning ugly at Ole Miss, Auburn football did it again on its home turf.
Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt wasn’t pretty. Auburn got off to a slow start. There were penalties, missed tackles, mistakes and a lack of energy. Still, the Tigers pulled their act together in the second half and walked out of Jordan-Hare Stadium with another win.
Auburn’s stock will rise slightly. Here’s why:
- There was buzz before Saturday’s game when backup quarterback John Franklin III took most of the handoffs for Auburn during warmup. Then it was announced Franklin would get his first career start against Vanderbilt. The junior college transfer moved the ball decently on the ground, but only threw four passes in the first half. Everything changed in the second half. Sean White started and his presence immediately was felt. On his first drive of the game White completed five passes for 54 yards and gave Darius Slayton his first career touchdown on a 21-yard catch. White’s biggest impact might have been just stepping foot on the field — it woke up the crowd and the momentum energized the defense, too. Things got going when White was back in command for Auburn.
- Through the first three quarters against Vanderbilt, Kamryn Pettway wasn’t as booming as he had been in recent weeks. Still, he added his name to Auburn’s list of 1,000-yard rushers and during the third quarter and passed the 100-yard mark early in the fourth. The running back’s accomplishments this season are impressive — especially considering he only needed nine games to reach the 1,000-yard mark. But on what would have been the icing on the cake late in the fourth quarter, Pettway pulled something on a 60-yard run and went down at the Vanderbilt 12 (he easily would have scored from 72 yards). The extent of his injury isn’t known yet but it didn’t look good. He finished with 25 carries for 173 yards.
- Auburn’s linebackers were dealt a tough blow when Deshaun Davis, arguably the leader of the unit, was ejected during the first half for targeting. Illinois transfer TJ Neal came into the game and played well. The graduate transfer hasn’t played much this season and this was a strange game to come into. He was one of the team’s leading tacklers and recorded a tackle for loss as well. Montavious Atkinson is another player who’s stock steadily has risen this season. Atkinson’s name was called when Tre Williams was ejected for targeting against LSU. He’s made some big hits this season.
- If teams who don’t have Daniel Carlson don’t spend most of their days sulking, they should. There are so many synonyms to describe the junior kicker (who should be a shoe in for the Lou Groza Award), but the point is he’s reliable. On the block late in the fourth quarter, there was nothing he could do.
- Franklin didn’t play bad in the first half, but the offense becomes one dimensional with him in the game. He averaged 8.4 yards per carry, but is limited. Franklin is looking to the sideline for direction and calls where White has had more freedom in recent weeks. Part of that has to do with experience. It also has to do with how comfortable offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee is calling passing plays with the junior college transfer in the game.
- Auburn’s defensive line didn’t play terrible, either. They just weren’t themselves. The Tigers had a sack in every half this season — with the exception of the Clemson loss and the second half of the loss to Texas A&M. Carl Lawson finally broke through with 1:12 left in the game to sack Kyle Shurmur. Montravius Adams tipped a few of Shurmur’s passes. Overall the defensive line didn’t bring the pressure it has of late.
- Auburn’s offensive line continues opening gaps for the backfield. Putting Darius James at left tackle and moving Austin Golson to center continues to be a good one. The Tigers outgained the Commodores on the ground (271-120), which made a huge difference in the game.