NASHVILLE – In so many ways, Auburn has felt fourth-quarter déjà vu Saturday after Saturday.
Locked in yet another close game, the Tigers had every opportunity to steal a much-needed win. And couldn’t. Again.
Auburn’s offense couldn’t get out of its own way, unable to capitalize on numerous opportunities as the Tigers fell 17-13 at Vanderbilt Saturday, sending the Tigers to their fourth consecutive loss.
The nonpartisan crowd, painted with orange paraphenelia throughout the announced paid attendance at 40,350 at Vanderbilt Stadium, was bundled up for “football” weather on a chilly afternoon.
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Besides the drop in temperature, much of the flow of Saturday’s game resembled previous losses by Auburn (1-6, 0-5 SEC) which has now lost back-to-back games to Vanderbilt for the first time since 1949-50 and saw its league losing streak go to seven.
At least the Tigers managed to score in the fourth quarter, for the first time since the season opener at Clemson. Like it was on Sept. 1, those late points were off the foot of Cody Parkey, a 39-yard field goal cutting Vandy’s lead to 17-13.
But that was all the Tigers’ offense could muster. In 26 fourth-quarter possessions this year, Auburn has yet to score a touchdown.
Junior quarterback Clint Moseley’s pass to tight end C.J. Uzomah advanced the Tigers to Vandy’s 41-yard-line with 90 seconds remaining. But Moseley’s next two passes were incomplete, followed by a 3-yard sack and a badly missed deep ball to an open Sammie Coates down the left seam, sealing Auburn’s fate.
The Commodores’ Chase Garnham was an animal on defense, sacking Moseley three times.
Vandy senior Zac Stacy (from Centreville, Ala.) christened the afternoon by becoming Vandy’s all-time leading rusher, gashing Auburn’s defense for 169 yards on 27 carries.
The Commodores (3-4, 2-3) converted 2-of-5 attempts on fourth down, which in principle made sense against an Auburn defense which had seen opponents prolong the drive 5-of-8 times this year.
But the Commodores turned it over on downs twice due to failed execution on trick plays. A direct snap on a fake punt, and a halfback pass, each lost yardage, giving Auburn the benefit of good field position. Vandy also lost three fumbles Saturday.
But the Tigers’ offense, save for a couple of long gains by running back Tre Mason and wide receiver Emory Blake, continuously crippled itself with penalties and lost yardage.
Auburn was outgained 382-212 in the game. Tre Mason gained 85 yards on 16 carries, including a season-long 34-yard run (followed by false starts on two of the next three line-ups) and his third 1-yard touchdown of the year.
Freshman mike linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, starting for the first time in his career over Jake Holland, had a monstrous debut, recording 12 tackles and forcing a fumble.