AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn went 8-4 in 2007 and earned a spot in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson, but there were some changes on the Plains leading up to the game.
Then-head coach Tommy Tuberville hired Tony Franklin, who had been at Troy, as his new offensive coordinator in December. In a matter of weeks, the Tigers installed a new offense, and it worked out in their favor. Auburn defeated Clemson in a thrilling overtime win in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Senior quarterback Brandon Cox had one of his most productive games of that season, throwing for 211 yards in the 23-20 win.
Here’s how Brandon remembers the game (As told to Lauren Shute):
It was our last game of the season, and it was going to be the last game I played in. There was a lot riding on it, especially for the seniors. Our class had won 49 games and then the bowl game ended up being our 50th win.
The cool thing about bowl games is getting to play teams that you don’t normally get to play. There’s a lot of history with Auburn and Clemson, but our group of guys never got to play them, so it was fun for us to get to play a new opponent. Anytime Clemson is mentioned, the memories I have of playing in that game come to mind.
Leading up to the game, coach Al Borges, my offensive coordinator for the couple of years that I played, he resigned and coach Tony Franklin was brought in. Going into the game it was a lot of wondering what we were going to do offensively — whether we were going to run Coach Borges’ offense or Coach Franklin’s offense, or kind of a mix.
Usually with bowl games, you have a lot of the younger guys practicing and getting more reps, but Coach Franklin said we had a job to do. It was more-business-than-usual bowl practice, but coach did well with adjusting to kind of how we had done things in the past and also installing a whole new offense.
We had been running more of a West Coast-style of offense, but the new system was more of what you see today, spread offenses with three, four or five wide receivers at all times out of the shotgun. It was a big adjustment for us and we literally installed the offense in two weeks and ran it in the game. I remember it being a different type of excitement being that we had a new system.
For me it wasn’t completely new, though. When Franklin was the running backs coach at Kentucky in the late 90s, my high school coaches went to Kentucky and they learned the system from Tony Franklin. They installed it for us at my high school. So when Franklin came in it was pretty much verbatim the same offense I ran in high school, so I picked it up pretty quickly.
It was fun to be back in that offense throwing the ball around, spreading it out. I don’t think many people gave us the chance to install a new offense in two weeks and run it how we did. We were very productive offensively and were able to come out with an overtime win.
Kodi Burns was a true freshman that year. I struggled early in the season and Kodi came in and did a great job. He was a more athletic quarterback, so he came in for a lot of the running plays. Kodi loved to learn from the older guys and he was always very humble, and he was a big asset in that type of offense. As athletic as he was, he had a lot of big plays in that game as he did for a couple of years after that.
I remember on one play, we had a third down and 7. We looked to the sideline, and with how Coach Franklin called plays. we had one guy signaling to the offensive line and one to the receivers and to me. They signaled a quarterback draw. And we were maybe around the 50-yard line.
I kind of looked and did a double take and made sure I got in the right spot because they knew I was the one in the game and not Kodi. I got the ball and I think I had my eyes closed, I just took off running, and it felt like I ran 20 yards. I got the first down and only actually ran about 8 1/2 yards. It was very rare that I got to carry the ball and when I did, I was being rushed out of the pocket or it was a quarterback sneak trying to get like, half a yard, so it was rare for me, but I actually converted it for a first down. It shocked everyone on our team and in the building, it shocked me, but that’s the style of offense, the quarterback has to run the ball.
At the end of the game, Kodi came in and ran the quarterback keeper and scored the winning touchdown. It was a great team effort. We had a great group of seniors and there was no better way to go out than with a win. Not many people can say their last game was a win, so just to be a part of that with the guys that I’d been there with for four or five years, to stand on the stage after the game and accept the trophy and celebrate our last game together was pretty special.
I have a lot of family on my mom’s side — aunts, uncles, cousins, who are Alabama fans. Being that the game was in Atlanta and it was my last one, I had a lot of family there. When I was at Auburn they cheered for Auburn when we weren’t playing Alabama and then when we did they pulled for me not to get hurt. One of my cousins has a man cave, it’s an all-crimson room with a pool table and Alabama pictures. After that game he had me sign a No. 12 jersey and he has it hanging up in his Alabama man cave, so it was a special moment for our family.
I like to think that we had a senior class that was full of great leaders and overcoming adversity and setting an example for the younger guys.
It’s always going to have a special place for me because it was my last game I ever played as a college player or anything for that matter. Going out with a win was the best part about it, too.