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Auburn linebacker Chris Evans (59) prepares to tackle running back Tristan Davis  during Auburn’s A-Day on Saturday. The Blue team won 27-7. Davis finished with a game-high 62 yards rushing.
AP photo by Anthony Hall
Auburn linebacker Chris Evans (59) prepares to tackle running back Tristan Davis during Auburn’s A-Day on Saturday. The Blue team won 27-7. Davis finished with a game-high 62 yards rushing.

AU finds old QB
Cox sharp, but reserve quarterbacks don’t step up

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com · 340-2462

AUBURN — Tommy Tuberville and Al Borges wanted desperately to find a backup quarterback by the time Auburn’s A-Day spring football game finished.

By the time it was over and fans began filing out of Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn’s head coach and offensive coordinator still were unsure of their No. 2 man.

But they were certain about one thing — they found the old Brandon Cox.

Auburn’s incumbent starting quarterback passed for 286 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers’ Blue team beat the White team 27-7 on a cold and blustery day.

“A year ago, he had a John Wayne effort,” said Borges, the offensive coordinator. “Very bold. It was obvious in how he threw the ball. And now you see what he’s capable of.”

This past fall, the efficient and good-decision-making Cox of 2005 disappeared because of various injuries.

On Saturday, the Cox from two years ago returned. Cox finished 15-of-25 passing and led the Blue team on four scoring drives. His production earned him the game’s offensive MVP award.

The Blue team, which started the game as Auburn’s first-team offense, racked up 406 yards and ate up 30:44 of a game clock.

“Yeah, it was pretty fun going out there and score some points,” Cox said.

Yet, the big story was that no one emerged as the leading candidate for the second-team quarterback. Status quo is how Borges will go into Wednesday’s final spring practice.

Junior Blake Field, saddled with shoulder tendonitis all spring, completed 3 of 10 passes for 45 yards. Redshirt freshman Neil Caudle wasn’t much better, completing 2 of 8 for 32 yards and an interception.

Steven Ensminger, also a redshirt freshman, was better, but only nominally. He completed 9 for 11 for 77 yards and an interception.

“It’s not a decision we have to make right now,” Borges said. “And Blake’s been hurt.”

Added Tuberville: “Next Wednesday, we’re going to have some team drills here in the stadium. Hopefully, one of the guys will pull ahead. We’re going to make that basically a final semester grade for our backup quarterbacks. We need a backup quarterback to step up.”

For his part, Caudle wasn’t enthusiastic about his day.

“I got a little frustrated towards the end,” Caudle said. “I could have done better. Should have done better.”

For as unhappy as Caudle was for his day, the defense wasn’t any happier.

Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said that despite being in an ordinary base alignment for the day, his unit should have done better.

Safety Eric Brock agreed. So did linebacker Chris Evans.

“We didn’t do much on defense,” Muschamp said. “But when you’re playing base defense, you can’t afford to give up big plays. That’s disappointing.”

Auburn’s offense totaled 12 plays of 15 or more yards on the day.

“It’s very frustrating,” Brock said. “Even though we kept it base, I’m kind of disappointed in the way we played. We gave up points, which normally, our defense doesn’t do.”

Tristan Davis led all rushers with 62 yards. Ben Tate finished with 44 on 14 carries. Mario Fannin had 42 yards on 14 carries, and Brad Lester ended with 33 yards on three rushes. Tate and Fannin added one touchdown apiece.

However, the day was one in which the air attack was the highlight.

Montez Billings stood out, catching four passes for 70 yards and a score, while Rod Smith added 67 yards and a score on three catches.

“That’s been the philosophy since the beginning of the spring,” Borges said.

“We have to vertically stretch defenses so we can run the football. If they’re not scared of our vertical game, they’ll pack the box.”

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