Auburn's victory over Vanderbilt wasn't pretty, but Tigers will take it
Auburn is showing it can win blowout games as well as tight matchups. Despite not starting Sean White due to an injury, the Tigers held on to beat Vanderbilt at Jordan-Hare Stadium to run their winning streak to six.
As a result, AU is 7-2 as it enters its road game against Georgia on Saturday.
Here’s an analysis of Auburn’s 23-16 victory.
• Hopefully Pettway isn’t sidelined for too long: For the fourth straight week, Pettway rushed for at least 169 yards, cruising past the Commodores for 173 yards on 25 carries. He broke free for a late 60-yard run but came up limping at the end of it. Any kind of absence would mean a potentially bigger workload for Kerryon Johnson. But will Johnson and others be able to pick up the slack?
• There was good news and bad news for the defense: On the one hand, the Tigers held Ralph Webb – the SEC’s second-leading rusher coming in – to a season-low 46 yards on 13 carries. But on the other hand, they allowed Vandy QB Kyle Shurmur to complete 67 percent of his passes – a season-high – for 221 yards. Shurmur was leading the Commodores to a potential game-tying touchdown before being intercepted by Joshua Holsey on a game-deciding play.
• Kicking game has his ups and downs: Daniel Carlson made attempts from 45, 53 and 34 yards against Vandy to give him 61 successful career kicks, which passed Wes Byrum for the school record. The one kick Carlson missed was blocked by Vandy’s Zach Cunningham, who basically hurdled Auburn’s protection to knock it down.
• Sean White saved the day: After being held out of the first half with an undisclosed injury, White was his typically accurate self, completing 10 of 13 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. John Franklin III, who got the start, went 2-for-4 for only 9 yards.
• Auburn flirted with disaster but avoided it: Despite being favored by nearly four touchdowns, the Tigers will take beating Vandy at home in a one-score game. They could’ve lost had White not started the second half, and they’re hoping that Pettway’s injury is not too serious. If Pettway can’t play at Georgia, perhaps the Tigers can rest him at home against Alabama A&M to have him ready for the Iron Bowl.
Offense: C – After averaging nearly 577 yards over its previous four games, Auburn gained 386 against Vanderbilt. Rushing for 271 yards was a good thing, but passing for only 115 was not. It was the Tigers’ second-worst passing output of the season; in beating Arkansas by 53 points two weeks ago, AU passed for only 89 yards because it rushed for 543 against the Razorbacks. Plus, it would have been nice to trade one of Carlson’s field goals for 6 points.
Defense: C – Auburn came into the contest allowing 3.7 yards per carry; the Commodores averaged 3.6. The Tigers’ pass defense allowed Shurmur and Vandy to possess the ball for more than 35 minutes and stay in the game.
Special teams: B – Kevin Phillips averaged 46.5 yards on his two punts. Johnson returned three kickoffs for 96 yards, while Kam Martin returned one for seven. Marcus Davis took a punt 6 yards.
Coaching: C – Considering how well White performed – he completed 10 of 13 passes for 106 yards and a score – you can’t help but wonder why he didn’t start the game and how much easier things might have been had he taken the opening snap. Injuries to Pettway, White and Tony Stevens – who didn’t play vs. the Commodores – will definitely test Gus Malzahn and his staff.
Overall: C – Struggling to beat Vanderbilt – a 26-point underdog – at home provided some scary moments for the Tigers. At least they have two weeks to prepare and get healthy for Alabama.
Auburn had a 35:09-24:51 time of possession disadvantage while running the ball 45 times. The Tigers executed 62 plays after running 74 last week against the Rebels.
LB Darrell Williams: The sophomore led all tacklers with a career-high 11 stops.
DE Carl Lawson: His sack raised his career-high season total to 8.5, and he added two QB hurries.
DB Tray Matthews: The junior had 7 tackles and 1 forced fumble.