Auburn produces win, not big stats
Published: Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
DALLAS — Once again, Auburn was giving up drive-killing sacks, struggling to run the ball and producing scant yardage.
The 10th-ranked Tigers managed a feeble 46 first-half yards and had to rely on big plays from special teams and defense for a 17-14 victory over No. 22 Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl on Monday.
It was hardly the offensive explosion they were hoping for with quarterback Brandon Cox, tailback Kenny Irons and receiver Courtney Taylor back in good health.
"It's just what you call sloppy football," Taylor said. "We didn't play our best game, but at the same time we got the job done. That's what we've been doing all year long. That's the key thing, to come out with the victory."
The Tigers (11-2) are better at racking up wins than big yardage. They had just 178 total yards against the Cornhuskers (9-5), their fourth time being held to less than 215 yards this season.
Their two touchdowns came on drives totaling 23 yards in the first half, following Nebraska's botched fourth-down attempt and an interception by Karibi Dede.
"We got off to a slow start, but that's kind of been the story all year," Cox said. "We've been a second-half team all year."
The Tigers fared better in the second half but were hardly prolific.
Auburn finally managed to get some yards and first downs, but the only resulting points came on John Vaughn's 42-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.
"Offensively, we just never got consistent but we did run time off the clock in the second half to give our defense a little break," coach Tommy Tuberville said. "When it's all said and done, this team won as a group all year long."
Irons couldn't come up with any big plays despite finally having a healthy ankle. He managed just 72 yards on 24 carries and fumbled to end a promising drive to start the third quarter. Cox passed for just 111 yards and a touchdown and lost a fumble near midfield in the fourth quarter. The defense bailed Auburn out with another stop.
A 21-yard catch by Taylor and freshman Ben Tate's 21-yard run were the only things that qualified as big plays from the Tigers' offense.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges could live with the humble stats since his team won.
"This team, although painful to watch at times as a coach, has a tremendous belief in their ability to win games," Borges said. "As long as they don't shoot themselves in the foot to a point where they just knock themselves completely out like we did against Georgia or like we did against Arkansas, we'll find a way to win the game."
Fullback Carl Stewart accounted for both touchdowns, a 9-yard catch and a 1-yard run.
For the second straight game, the offense fared best in capitalizing on mistakes by the opposing team. Dede's interception and 52-yard return set up Stewart's TD catch.
The Tigers took over at the Cornhuskers 14 on their next series after a botched reverse exchange on the fake punt.
Against Alabama, two of Auburn's three touchdowns were set up by fumbles.
"It's not always the way I like to play football," Borges said. "I'd rather light the scoreboard up and all that. But I'll take it. I'll take 11 wins, however you can get 11 wins."
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