Nov. 4, 2006
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Brandon Cox is still waiting for that dominant performance from No. 6 Auburn's offense.
Not that it was needed Saturday.
The Tigers' defense limited Arkansas State to 177 total yards - most of them in the fourth quarter - in a 27-0 victory.
Cox passed for 251 yards and two touchdowns but was also intercepted twice and lost a fumble, spoiling any chance for Auburn (9-1) to roll up the score.
"Offensively, it was the same old story," said Cox, who was 12-of-21 passing and fell 2 yards shy of his season-high in yards. "We put up some good numbers, but we still didn't put up enough points. We scored enough points to win but not enough to satisfy us."
The defense got some satisfaction with its second shutout of the season.
The Indians (5-4) gained 86 yards and four first downs in the first three quarters before finally starting to move the ball against Auburn's backups.
The Tigers were looking for an easy win and trying to pile up some style points for positioning in the Bowl Championship Series standings - especially with fellow BCS hopefuls like No. 5 Florida and No. 2 Michigan struggling Saturday.
At least they accomplished the first goal, but their season-ending rivalry games with Georgia and Alabama lost some luster with both rivals getting upset earlier in the day.
Auburn avoided any such stumble, though coach Tommy Tuberville admitted it was "a pretty ho-hum game."
"It was one of those games we were just trying to get through and get the win and get it over with," coach Tommy Tuberville said.
Still, the Tigers had Cox on the field until late in the fourth quarter. He set his season-high with 253 passing yards at Mississippi last week.
Courtney Taylor had four catches for 116 yards, all in the first half, and became the fourth Auburn receiver with 2,000 career yards. He had catches of 41 and 57 yards to set up first-half field goals.
Auburn tailback Kenny Irons, bothered by an ankle injury for much of the season, played only the opening series. The Southeastern Conference's No. 2 rusher couldn't handle a pitch on a play that lost 10 yards and had one carry for no gain after that. Irons watched the rest of the game from the sidelines.
"We started out Kenny Irons just to make sure he got the rust off," Tuberville said. "Luckily, we did."
The Indians finally drove into Auburn territory against reserve defenders in the fourth quarter, then had a botched snap on a 19-yard field-goal attempt ruin their best scoring chance.
The Tigers' reaction to that shutout-preserving mistake? "A big sigh of relief," linebacker Karibi Dede said.
"You always shoot for the highest standard defensively, and that's a shutout," he said.
The Indians have now been held scoreless in two straight games, coming off a 29-0 loss to Florida Atlantic.
"We came down here to compete and have an opportunity to win and obviously we did not get that done," Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts said.
But his team, which came in with 13 interceptions, kept the score from getting uglier by adding three picks. Auburn backup quarterback Blake Field was intercepted on his only pass attempt.
Auburn had committed just nine turnovers through nine games. The Tigers managed 399 total yards despite the miscues.
The Tigers led 13-0 at halftime, with two promising drives ended by turnovers and two more with short field goals by John Vaughn.
"We moved the ball all over the field," Taylor said. "When you get in certain situations, you're jumping offsides and basically shooting yourselves in the foot."
Arkansas State's Corey Leonard was 9-of-17 for 61 yards, while leading rusher Reggie Arnold managed 37 yards on 11 carries. Leonard was impressed by the Tigers' speed.
"They are a really good defense," he said. "I have nothing against them but when I lined up I thought, 'Those guys aren't as big as you think.' But as soon as that first snap comes, you see why they are as good as they are.
"They are fast everywhere from their defensive tackles to their safeties."
Auburn safety Eric Brock sprained his left ankle early and didn't return.