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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2007
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Kansas State defender Byron Garvin, top, breaks up a pass intended for Auburn receiver James Swinton in the first half in  Auburn on Saturday. No. 18 Auburn rallied to win 23-13.
Kansas State defender Byron Garvin, top, breaks up a pass intended for Auburn receiver James Swinton in the first half in Auburn on Saturday. No. 18 Auburn rallied to win 23-13.

Auburn survives stubborn K-State

By Ross Dellenger
sports@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

AUBURN — It took exactly 50 seconds for Auburn to transform its four-point deficit into a 10-point lead.

The Tigers’ Brandon Cox threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gabe McKenzie with 2:11 to play, and Antonio Coleman followed with a 34-yard fumble return for a score, sealing No. 18 Auburn’s 23-13 come-from-behind win over Kansas State in a packed Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday night.

“What a game,” coach Tommy Tuberville said afterward.

“That was a true Auburn win. We just found a way to get enough points, play good defense and the kicking game stepped up to make some plays.”

Cox struggled throughout, throwing two interceptions in a rapidly collapsing pocket. But in the end, the senior quarterback came through.

Auburn defender Jonathan Wilhite, left, brings down Kansas State wide receiver Jordy Nelson in the second quarter of the Tigers 23-13 win in Auburn on Saturday night.
AP photo by Dave Martin
Auburn defender Jonathan Wilhite, left, brings down Kansas State wide receiver Jordy Nelson in the second quarter of the Tigers 23-13 win in Auburn on Saturday night.
Cox completed five of his last six attempts of the game, capping a 57-yard drive with his touchdown pass to a wide open McKenzie in the back of the end zone that brought a loud, long cheer from the 86,439 attending.

“I really thought we had it all along,” Cox said. “It was just a matter of when we would take it.”

Shortly after Cox’s touchdown pass, Quentin Groves hit Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman’s blind side, forcing a fumble. Coleman picked up the loose ball and raced 48 yards for a touchdown, ending any chance of an upset by the Wildcats, who had 16 penalties for 141 yards.

“We just didn’t finish the game,” K-State coach Ron Prince said. “We just didn’t get it done.”

Cox finished 17-of-30 passing for 229 yards.

During the last drive, Cox had completions of 12 and 17 yards to Prechae Rodriguez, a 6-yard pass to Robert Dunn and then a 16-yard completion to James Swinton that moved the ball into the 5-yard line.

But it wasn’t good until late for Cox.

He threw his second interception of the game on the first play of the second half. Kansas State took advantage of the turnover, using a trick play to score the game’s first touchdown.

Freeman flipped the ball to receiver Jordy Nelson, who then threw a 21-yard spiral to tailback Leon Patton, who was wide open in the end zone for a 10-6 lead that the Wildcats held into the final two minutes.

On the next series, Cox nearly threw another pick on a third down. After the punt, Kansas State marched down to the Auburn 22 before a Freeman pass fell incomplete. Place-kicker Brooks Rossman hit a 40-yard field goal to put the Wildcats up 13-6 with 7:31 left in the third quarter.

Auburn’s only excitement of the third quarter came from its special teams when Dunn nearly returned a punt for a touchdown. The junior took the kick 57 yards to the K-State 15. He had only one man to beat before getting to the end zone.

But Auburn’s offense failed to take full advantage of good field position. Ben Tate, who replaced suspended running back Brad Lester, gained 4 yards on first down. Cox was sacked a play later — one of five in the game — and then his third-down pass ricocheted off the fingers of Smith in the end zone. Wes Byrum made his third field goal of the night from 31 yards out to close the gap to 13-9.

“Winning games are about defense,” Tuberville said. “We are not going to win a lot of games offensively.”

In the second quarter, a 55-yard pass from Cox to Rod Smith put the Tigers inside the K-State 20-yard line, but the offense again failed to get into the end zone. The Tigers had a second-and-goal from the 4, when Carl Stewart lost 3 yards and then Cox’s pass on third down missed.

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