October 2, 2004
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Jason Campbell is finding redemption in the West Coast offense.
Auburn's often-criticized quarterback threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns, and the eighth-ranked Tigers stamped themselves as national title contenders by overwhelming No. 10 Tennessee 34-10 on Saturday night.
Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown each ran for a touchdown to complement Campbell, and the Tigers' swarming defense made Tennessee's two freshmen quarterbacks look like neophytes for the first time this season. Junior Rosegreen had four interceptions to set a record for Auburn (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) and tie the SEC mark.
Erick Ainge got his first start for the Volunteers (3-1, 1-1) after racking up the best passer rating in the SEC over the first three games. The promotion did no good. He threw four interceptions and lost a fumble.
Fellow freshman Brent Schaeffer had little success in his first game as a reliever. He also threw an interception.
Campbell has often received the blame from fans and media for Auburn's past offensive inconsistency, despite playing for four offensive coordinators in four seasons.
He is finally flourishing under Al Borges.
Campbell is running the West Coast offense, with its multiple shifts, quick throws and moving pockets, like a longtime veteran. He also is showing the confidence and poise of a quarterback with 32 career starts.
Against the Vols, he looked off receivers and stepped up in the pocket. He threw with fine touch over defenders and zipped passes in between them. Campbell was 12-for-15 in the first half for 240 yards to lead the Tigers to a 31-3 lead.
The Tigers took the field knowing that their two main SEC West rivals -- LSU and Arkansas -- had lost. As if bolstered by the opportunity to grab command of the division, Auburn controlled the first quarter.
The Tigers forced a three-and-out on the first series of the game, got a piece of Tennessee's punt, and Campbell and his two star tailbacks went to work at their own 45.
The Tigers drove the field with a mix of power running and quick passes. Brown finished the job by bowling over Tennessee's Jason Allen, knocking the safety's helmet off on the way to a 9-yard touchdown run.
After the Vols responded with a field goal, the Tigers marched down field again but couldn't complete the drive this time. Brown fumbled at the 5 and Tennessee recovered at the 1.
It was only a temporary reprieve for the Vols.
Ainge lost the ball on a sneak and Auburn was back in the red zone. Campbell then made it 14-3 with a 5-yard pass to Ben Obomanu.
When Williams ran over Allen for a 5-yard touchdown in the second quarter it was 24-3 and most of the 107,828 fans at Neyland Stadium were stunned silent.
Just when it looked as though Tennessee might make a game of it, Auburn's defense came up with its third takeaway. Travis Williams picked off Ainge's tipped pass at the Tigers 32 with 2:05 left in the half.
Auburn wasn't about to get conservative.
Campbell went deep on the next play, hitting Brown for 38 yards. Moments later, Campbell threw a bullet to Courtney Taylor slanting over the middle and the receiver broke free for a 31-yard TD play and a 28-point halftime lead.
The second half was a mere formality.
Auburn, a team that fell far short of lofty expectations last season, now has a 1 and a half game lead in the SEC West and its first win at Knoxville since 1983.
For Tennessee, it gets no easier next week; the Vols go to Georgia, which made a statement of its own with a 45-16 victory over LSU on Saturday.