Had 15-game winning streak against Wildcats
By ANDY BITTER
AUBURN, Ala. — Kentucky kept its starting quarterback a secret all week, not wanting to give Auburn any idea of who might get most of the snaps Saturday night.
As it turns out, the Wildcats’ best option wasn’t even a full-time quarterback.
Wide receiver Randall Cobb played a prominent role out of the Wildcat formation and burned Auburn with a 61-yard run late in the fourth quarter, setting up his touchdown run a few plays later in Kentucky’s 21-14 upset on a chilly night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“We had our chances to win the game,” Tigers coach Gene Chizik said. “We had our chances to close the door on several occasions, but we didn’t do it.”
Cobb ran for 109 yards. Running back Derrick Locke added 126. Kentucky (3-3, 1-3 SEC) finished with 282 rushing yards on the night, the most Auburn has allowed since giving up 426 to Arkansas in 2002.
It was Kentucky’s first win in the series since 1966, snapping a 15-game losing streak. The Wildcats had not won in Auburn since 1961.
“From where we were heading in, I think this breathes a little life back into our fan base,” said Kentucky coach Rich Brooks, whose team had lost to No. 1 Florida, No. 3 Alabama and No. 24 South Carolina the previous three weeks.
Auburn’s defense wasn’t the only culprit. The Tigers (5-2, 2-2 SEC) entered the game fifth in the nation in total offense, averaging 498.8 yards per game, but produced next to nothing from beginning to end. They finished with a season-low 315 yards despite going up against a Kentucky defense that was without its two starting cornerbacks.
Running back Ben Tate ran for 132 yards, the fourth straight SEC game in which he’s topped 100 yards, but he was Auburn’s lone offensive highlight. The Tigers produced only seven offensive points, the fewest by a Gus Malzahn-coached group in his three-plus years as a college coordinator.
Quarterback Chris Todd struggled all night, completing 10 of 24 passes for 80 yards and an interception, although Chizik said he didn’t consider making a switch.
But the problems extended beyond Todd. Auburn stopped itself with 10 penalties for 76 yards, several coming at crucial junctures.
Trailing by seven with two minutes left, Auburn faced a third-and-1 from the Kentucky 43. It self-destructed from there, flagged twice for false starts to make it third-and-11 from its 47.
“Whenever we felt like we had momentum going, we’d get a penalty,” wide receiver Kodi Burns said. “You’ve got to put a team away. … Offensively, you’ve got to know the snap count. Look at the ball. The team with the most penalties usually loses.”
After Darvin Adams dropped a pass near the sideline that would have been enough for a first down, Todd heaved up a pass to Terrell Zachery in double coverage. Two Kentucky defenders easily batted it away to seal the win.
“We came out tonight and didn’t play hard,” Tate said. “We had too many mental mistakes. When a team does that, it is hard to defeat any other SEC team.”
Halftime lead squandered
Auburn built a 14-7 halftime lead despite its offensive struggles. Jake Ricks blocked a field goal attempt by Kentucky’s Lones Seiber in the first quarter. Neiko Thorpe picked it up and raced 69 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
Kentucky tied it on a 4-yard run by true freshman Morgan Newton, who got the nod at quarterback in place of an injured Mike Hartline, but the Tigers went into halftime up seven on a 1-yard touchdown run by Tate on fourth-and-goal with six seconds left before halftime.
It was the last taste of offensive success Auburn would have. The closest the Tigers got to scoring in the second half was on their first drive, getting to the Kentucky 28. Instead of kicking a 45-yard field goal, they went for it on fourth-and-5. Todd’s throw was high, and Adams couldn’t haul it in.
Kentucky, meanwhile, found success with another quarterback, switching to Will Fidler in third quarter. The junior went 4-for-9 for 36 yards, completing a clutch pass to tight end T.C. Drake on a fourth down deep in Auburn territory. Fidler scored on a 2-yard draw two plays later to tie the game at 14.
From there, the Wildcats thrived in the Wildcat. Cobb ran the ball 12 times out of the formation and averaged 9.1 yards per carry. Kentucky ran for 142 yards in the fourth quarter alone.
“They were smelling blood,” cornerback Walt McFadden said. “They saw that we were getting tired.”
Auburn now has to get its bearings before making a trip to Baton Rouge next week to face No. 10 LSU.
“This could be the best thing for us or the worst thing for us,” Burns said. “We want this feeling out of our mouth.
“We’ve just got to go to LSU and get a win.”