AUBURN — For much of Saturday night, Auburn looked like a team that hadn’t played a game in 21 days, but the Tigers recovered from an early deficit to score 27 unanswered points and beat Tennessee 30-17.
1. Auburn’s defense has some holes to patch up: Holding an opponent to just 17 points can definitely be considered a success, especially when you consider that 10 of them came on the first three drives of the game.
But the defense the Tigers played Saturday might not cut it next week against Alabama, one of the most explosive offenses in the country.
The Volunteers racked up 464 total yards and averaged 6.3 yards per play. The rushing attack was especially effective, with 41 carries going for 222 yards (5.4 average) and a touchdown. Eric Gray's 173 yards were the most by an individual against Auburn's defense this season.
2. The injury bug may have struck at the worst time: There was good news Saturday when Auburn took the field with none of its starters or backups missing due to COVID-19 quarantines after having 10 players test positive during the open date. But the Tigers did not escape the victory as lucky.
Tank Bigsby, Auburn’s emergent star at running back, carried only three times. He appeared to injure his hip on his second carry, was cleared to return to the game in the second quarter, but was clearly still in some discomfort — he ran once more for 10 yards, then immediately went back to the sideline. He was ruled out for the second half.
Both of Auburn’s starting offensive tackles, Alec Jackson and Brodarious Hamm, also left due to injury during the second half. Austin Troxell entered at left tackle and Brenden Coffey at right. Jackson did later return, though, with a hand heavily taped up.
Wide receiver Seth Williams was also slow to get up after very nearly making an acrobatic catch down the sideline midway through the fourth quarter.
3. Depth matters: Bigsby’s early injury could have spelled disaster for Auburn’s offense as well as he’s played during his freshman campaign.
But Malzahn and offensive coordinator Chad Morris spent the preseason stressing the importance of creating depth at running back, and it paid off against the Vols.
Shaun Shivers got the first crack at the defense after Bigsby exited and carried 14 times for 65 yards and a touchdown. D.J. Williams came in and carried 11 times for 66 yards and a score.