Blackmon out of lineup
AUBURN — Expected to start, linebacker Tray Blackmon didn’t even dress out Saturday in Auburn’s 35-7 win over Vanderbilt. He stood on the sidelines in shorts, wearing a jersey with no pads.
Blackmon started against Florida last week, playing only 26 snaps. He had hoped to play more this week, but Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said Blackmon’s lingering ankle injury forced coaches to sit him this week. Tuberville called the injury “mysterious.”
“He keeps working hard on it. He’ll go a little bit in practice, and the next day he’ll come back and just can’t go,” Tuberville said. “We decided today just to pull him back and try to get him going. It was a tough decision, knowing we were getting ready to play a team that’s pretty versatile in their offense.”
Blackmon twisted his ankle while returning an interception in the season-opening win over Kansas State. The redshirt sophomore also missed six games last season because of suspension.
True freshman linebacker Bo Harris filled in for Groves. Harris is the seventh true freshman that Auburn has started this season.
“It just goes to show you, young guys have to step up and make plays,” Tuberville said.
Starting Auburn center Jason Bosley sprained his left knee late in the second quarter.
After lying on the field for several minutes, Bosley, a junior, was helped to the locker room by trainers with less than a minute left in the first half. He did not return to the game.
“I don’t know how long he’ll be out,” Tuberville said, “but it’s not good.”
True freshman left tackle Ryan Pugh moved to center, and senior King Dunlap entered the game at tackle. It was Dunlap’s first playing time since injuring his wrist against Mississippi State three weeks ago.
Although his injury healed last week, Dunlap was replaced in the lineup by Pugh because of his poor play. With Bosley out, he has an opportunity.
“I should have stepped it up from the beginning,” Dunlap said. “Now that I’m back out there, I have to take up the slack and keep this thing rolling.”
AU contains Bennett
Although Vandy receiver Earl Bennett broke the school’s all-time receiving record with a catch in the middle of the third quarter, he did little against a stingy Auburn defense.
Bennett came into the game leading the SEC in receptions and receiving yards, but he caught just four passes and had only 31 yards Saturday.
“We doubled him at times,” defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said. “We rolled on him to try to keep him on the line of scrimmage.”
The play of Auburn’s defensive backs coupled with a mad pass rush proved lethal, as the Tigers allowed just 88 passing yards. Vandy quarterbacks completed just 12 of their 31 attempts with an interception.
Vandy quarterback Chris Nickson, a former Alabama Mr. Football, had a rough outing. Nickson was yanked in the third quarter and finished with 38 yards on 5-of-16 passing.
Starting Auburn cornerback Pat Lee said Bennett began to get frustrated with his quarterbacks, even calling them “bad names” while on the field.
“You could hear him talking on the field. I think I heard a few bad names,” Lee said. “We knew they were going to throw him the ball a lot.”
Sophomore defensive end Antonio Coleman stepped in for injured Quentin Groves on Saturday, tallying three quarterback hurries and two tackles for lost yardage. It was just another day for Coleman, who said starting means little to him.
“I was a little pumped,” he said.
“I’m just out there to play ball — first string, second string, third string.”
Groves dislocated three toes during the third quarter of the win at Florida last week. He is expected to return next week against Arkansas.
2 AU frosh play
Two Auburn freshmen played for the first time Saturday. Defensive back Ryan Williams and linebacker Josh Bynes can’t be redshirted after seeing playing time in the win over Vandy.
Bynes and Williams played during the fourth quarter and throughout the game on special teams.
Tuberville prefers to redshirt all of his true freshman.
“We had to bring out two kids today we would have loved to have redshirted,” Tuberville said, “but we don’t have the opportunity to do that.”
Injuries and a lack of depth have forced coaches to play more than 15 true freshmen already this season.
Savage out, Brock in
Auburn safety Aairon Savage did not play. According to Tuberville, Savage “twisted his knee” against Florida last week. Tuberville said Savage will not need surgery.
“We’ll just have to wait and see on that one,” he said.
Senior Eric Brock replaced Savage in the lineup and led the Tigers with seven tackles and two pass-breakups.
Lester, Fannin return kicks
As expected, running Brad Lester returned kicks for Auburn in his season debut. Lester replaced cornerback Pat Lee as the returner beside running back Mario Fannin.
He didn’t get much work, though.
Vanderbilt kicked off only twice — following its final touchdown and starting the second half.
’57 team honored
The players on Auburn’s 1957 national championship team were recognized at halftime. Each player from the team, or a family member representing them, lined Pat Dye Field. Their names were announced, and they were saluted by the Auburn faithful.
The 1957 Tigers finished No. 1 in The Associated Press poll. The squad capped that 10-0 year with a 40-0 win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
Auburn led the nation in scoring offense and defense. The 1957 Tigers, who had six shutouts, gave up just 2.8 points per game, which ranks them third all-time in that category.
All white wins again
Auburn has won 14 straight games when wearing all-white uniforms. The Tigers haven’t lost in all white since a loss at Georgia in 2003.
The white uniforms are normally reserved for road games, but in recognition of Auburn’s 1957 national championship team, the Tigers sported all-white at home Saturday. Auburn’s helmets on Saturday lacked the traditional “AU” logo, mimicking the 1957 team’s uniforms completely.
Grading the Tigers
Decatur Daily Sports Writer Ross Dellenger grades Auburn’s performance in Saturday’s 35-7 win over Vanderbilt, giving the Tigers a letter grade from A+ to F in four categories.
Couldn’t be better. The Tigers opened the game with a 21-point first quarter, spreading the ball around to receivers and three running backs. It looked like the Auburn offense of old, running at will and hitting the big pass.
If Auburn hadn’t put its reserves in the game, it most likely would have shut out the Commodores. The Tigers’ defense shut down Vanderbilt dual-threat quarterback Chris Nickson, a former Alabama Mr. Football. He finished with minus-5 yards rushing and threw for only 38 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
With Auburn’s offense rolling, kicker Wes Byrum had an off day in the field goal department, but he did have to boot six kickoffs. Two went for touchbacks. The punt and kickoff return teams had one of their best outings of the season, allowing just 7 yards a punt return and 24 yards a kickoff return.
THE BIG PICTURE:A
The defense has been good for some time, but the Auburn offense finally is starting to hit on all cylinders. If the Tigers can continue to produce offensively, they’ll have a shot at challenging LSU for the SEC West crown.
Best and worst
Best way to get the home crowd revved up: Just seconds before kickoff, Auburn added a new clip to the normal pregame video feature. A replay of kicker Wes Byrum’s game-winning field goal kick against Florida played on the Jordan-Hare Stadium video screen, drawing a roar from the crowd. That’ll fire ’em up.
Best Halloween costume: True freshman defensive end Antoine Carter wore red contacts to make his eyes look as if they were bloodshot. Also, his eye-black stickers had flames and smoke on them. Those two elements combined with his shiny gold teeth made for one scary Halloween appearance.
Worst pass defense: Auburn’s reserve defensive backs were called for two pass-interference penalties and a holding penalty on Vanderbilt’s only scoring
drive of the game midway through the fourth quarter. The reserves will stay the reserves.
Worst fan support: The Commodores were the first visiting team this season to leave their band behind. Vanderbilt’s traveling fans were the smallest group of the season to visit Jordan-Hare. That’s sad because it was such a good game.
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