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SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2006
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BRADLEY HANDWERGER
Auburnís Carl Stewart, left, and Rodgeriqus Smith, right, congratulate Courtney Taylor, center, on scoring the first touchdown against Arkansas State in Auburn on Saturday. Auburn won 27-0 and improved to 9-1 overall.
AP Photo by Todd J. Van Emst
Auburnís Carl Stewart, left, and Rodgeriqus Smith, right, congratulate Courtney Taylor, center, on scoring the first touchdown against Arkansas State in Auburn on Saturday. Auburn won 27-0 and improved to 9-1 overall.

Auburn quite content with average showing

AUBURN — Auburn's 27-0 win over Arkansas State on Saturday won't really mean anything other than another win.

It honestly doesn't mean anything when you break it down, either.

It was another ho-hum win for the Tigers — not overpowering, not pretty, only average.

And like all of Auburn's nonconference games other than Washington State, you can't glean anything from the result.

OK, so Arkansas State intercepted two Brandon Cox passes near the end zone. And, sure, Cox fumbled the ball away to the Indians on the ASU side of the field. And, yes, the Tigers had to settle for field goals several times inside the red zone.

You can harp on the negatives all day, though there weren't many.

Rather, look at it this way: Auburn didn't play nearly as poorly as other top- and mid-tier teams.

Auburn's biggest rival Alabama lost to Mississippi State at home.

Auburn's second-biggest rival Georgia lost to Kentucky on the road.

Auburn's rival in the polls, Michigan, had its hands full against Ball State, needing a goal-line stand to secure a win.

No. 7 Florida beat lowly Vanderbilt by only six points. Maryland beat No. 19 Clemson. No. 13 Wisconsin struggled against Penn State.

The list could go on.

Against overpowered Arkansas State, Auburn took care of business.

In fact, the positives from the game outweigh the negatives.

Auburn's defense limited the Indians to no passing yards in the first half and only 59 rushing. ASU ended with 177 total yards.

This is the same defense that has given up yards in bunches all season. On Saturday, there were no big plays by ASU.

Auburn's offense piled up the yards and the points.

And while it was Arkansas State, points matter, especially when they come in the form of touchdowns in the end zone.

But the biggest positive can't be seen in the box score.

Well, maybe it can be. Take a look and see how many carries and rushing yards Kenny Irons recorded. Then look at how many times Ben Tate carried the ball.

So you don't have to do any extra work, here they are: Irons, one carry, no yards. Ben Tate, 11 carries and 93 yards.

And no, this has nothing to do with Irons fumbling the pitch on the opening play of the game.

Yes, if you read between the lines, the point of all of this is that the win came easily.

It allowed head coach Tommy Tuberville to rest several of his players. Most importantly, Irons barely saw the playing surface.

In the fourth quarter, Brant Haynie, Patrick Trahan, Alonzo Horton and Tez Doolittle were in the game. And that was just on defense.

Most folks won't recognize those names.

That's a good thing.

The Georgia game is next week. The Iron Bowl a week after.

Georgia lost in a close game. So did Alabama.

You think those two teams had a chance to rest starters, to rest players who have contributed all year?

Probably not.

Auburn did and it could show in the coming weeks.

Tuberville and the team have preached throughout the year that winning an SEC championship is the most important goal.

You can make fun of Auburn's scheduling tactics all you want, but you have to give this to the school — the schedule has allowed the Tigers to be rested when they needed to be at the end of the season.

Saturday was as much of an off-day as Auburn is going to get all season.

Tuberville realized this and rested who he needed to rest.

The win was another average win, like all of Auburn's nonconference wins this season.

And you know what?

Tuberville and his assistant coaches are just fine with that.

Bradley Handwerger Bradley Handwerger
DAILY Sports Writer

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