The Auburn Tigers defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 30-17 to bring their season record to 5-2 through seven games. It was a win that Auburn needed badly and a loss that now means Tennessee has dropped five consecutive games. Although the Tigers won by a comfortable margin, this was far from a dominant performance against the Vols.
Auburn got off to a slow start, which led to Tennessee taking a 10-0 lead. The Tigers did not put any points on the board until a couple of minutes into the second quarter. However, once that happened, things seemingly started breaking for Auburn and away from Tennessee for the remainder of the game.
Take a look at three numbers, two notes and a quote that show what happened in Auburn’s 30-17 victory over Tennessee.
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Auburn quarterback Bo Nix did not play a perfect game, or even his best game of the season against Tennessee. In fact, he threw his first interception of the season at home while trying to force a throw to receiver Anthony Schwartz in the endzone.
But, following that ill-advised throw, Nix completed 15 of his 19 final pass attempts including at 54-yard touchdown pass to Schwartz. Bo Nix was able to bounce back from a costly error early in the game and manufacture a solid performance that led to a big SEC win. Auburn will need that kind of resiliency from Nix for the rest of the year to win the games left on the schedule.
Auburn defensive back Smoke Monday returned an interception thrown by Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano 100 yards for a Tiger touchdown to extend Auburn’s lead to 20-10. This was a huge play for momentum in the game because Tennessee had run the ball every play of the drive and marched straight down the field.
So, when Tennessee chose to put the ball in the air in the redzone, that was a win for the Tigers’ defense by itself. Monday made a great break on the ball, managed to bring in a leaping interception, and sprinted away 100 yards to find paydirt.
This play was at least a 10-point swing since Tennessee lost out on a short field goal opportunity and Auburn scored a touchdown in a matter of about 15 seconds. Once Auburn gained the 10-point lead from the pick six, the Tigers never looked back.
Auburn’s junior kicker Anders Carlson came up big once again for the Tigers in the win over Tennessee. Carlson was a perfect 3 for 3 on field goal attempts, including one kick from 50 yards. Carlson’s ability to deliver against the Volunteers shone especially bright in comparison to his Tennessee kicking counterpart Brett Cimaglia.
Cimaglia has been a solid kicker for years on Rocky Top. However, his two missed kicks against Auburn (especially the 37-yard attempt in the 4th quarter) proved costly. The fact that Carlson didn’t miss and Cimaglia was errant twice led to an outcome that could have been very different if the roles were reversed.
Big plays made the difference
Tennessee outgained Auburn 464 to 385 in total yardage. Tennessee had fewer penalties and penalty yardage than Auburn. Tennessee had more first downs and time of possession in the contest against Auburn. Both teams had just one turnover in the game, respectively.
So, how did Auburn win by 13 points? Tennessee missed two field goal attempts, while Auburn converted on all three attempts. Both quarterbacks threw interceptions in the redzone, but Tennessee managed a touchback while Auburn scored a touchdown on the play. Tennessee had a lot of successful offensive plays, but none of them gained more than 33 yards. The longest offensive play of the game was Nix to Schwartz for 54 yards for a touchdown.
Long story short — Tennessee was effective, but not explosive against Auburn. Meanwhile, the Tigers were not dominant, but were more successful in high-leverage situations. Those realities led to a 30-17 win for Auburn.
Auburn seemingly dodged COVID, but not injuries
It was encouraging to see that no one missed the game against Tennessee due to COVID-19 tests or procedures. So, everyone who has been a key player this year was able to compete once again.
But, as the game wore on, a number of Auburn players left the game due to injury and did not finish the game. Talented running back Tank Bigsby got banged up and left the game and both starting offensive tackles, Alec Jackson and Brodarious Hamm, exited the contest with injuries as well.
Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game, but the Tigers will need all hands on deck for the rest of the season, beginning with Alabama this week.
“That ain’t my job, guys. My job is to coach. If you want to ask me a football question, ask me a football question.” – Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt in response to questions about the direction of the Tennessee program.
I appreciate the sentiment from Pruitt following the game if he is trying to emphasize that he is not concerned with what people outside of their building think. I also understand that there are no good questions to answer when you have just lost your fifth conference game in a row.
However, as the head coach of an SEC football program, it is very likely that your job is much more about the “direction of the program” than about any one play call or scheme. Today’s coaches in the SEC are much more CEOs than play callers on the whole. That can be a very hard transition to make (Auburn’s head coach knows this as well as anyone), but it is one that Pruitt needs to embrace quickly.
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: email@example.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw