Assessing Auburn's 55-23 victory over Tennessee

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 10, 2013 

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Auburn's game against Tennessee had a familiar feel to it.

Gus Malzahn reiterated for the umpteenth time that his only goal is continuing to see his team improve "each practice and each game." Tiger quarterback Nick Marshall was in lock-step with his coach, noting he's taking things "one game at a time."

As for the game itself? The Tigers did what everyone expected them to do against Tennessee: They ran the ball. A lot. As in, 53 times in 60 offensive plays. The Volunteers even admitted they knew what was coming yet were still powerless to stop it.

The only real surprise from the 55-23 victory was seeing not one, but two returns for touchdowns. (Credit goes to Chris Davis and Corey Grant, respectively.) It was the first time in Auburn's history it has had both a kickoff and punt returned for a score in the same game.

With those formalities out of the way, I'm not going to waste time getting to some postgame grades.

OFFENSE: A+

The Tigers threw only seven times for 35 yards, but they still finished with 479 yards of total offense. Marshall was nearly unstoppable running the ball, and Tre Mason wasn't too shabby, either. And hey, one of those seven passes went for a touchdown (a 25-yard scoring strike to C.J. Uzomah) so it wasn't like that aspect of the offense was non-existent.

DEFENSE: A

The Volunteers were able to put together a few longer drives early, but the longer the game went, the better the Tigers' defense played. Tennessee scored only one touchdown offensively (the other was a pick-six by defensive end Jacques Smith), with Auburn forcing the hosts to settle for three field goals otherwise.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A+

How much more do I really need to say other than repeating Auburn scored a pair of touchdowns on special teams? Yes, senior placekicker Cody Parkey saw his streak of 90 consecutive extra-points made come to an end, but that was the only (infinitesimal) blemish for the unit on Saturday.

OVERALL: A+

The Tigers picked up their sixth win in a row with another good all-around showing. Most importantly, it improved to 9-1 overall (and 5-1 in the SEC), meaning Auburn still controls its own destiny: If it beats Georgia and Alabama in its final two regular season contests, Auburn will be in Atlanta for the SEC Championship on Dec. 7. And with the way the Tigers are playing right now, don't be surprised if that's exactly what happens.

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