I was hanging out at Pepper Place in Birmingham talking to other Auburn fans on Saturday morning listening to the Auburn Network when I heard the news about the starting QB change for Auburn. You could tell that Rod Bramblett, Stan White and Ronnie Brown were all surprised to hear the news just like the rest of the Auburn fan base. Of course, no one had heard any news of an injury to Sean White in the Ole Miss game so I just assumed that Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee were going to give John Franklin some playing time. Of course, Auburn does have a tendency to start slow at the 11:00 A.M. games so I was not surprised that the game was closer than the talking heads had predicted. Also, Vanderbilt has a good SEC style defense and their QB just happened to get a "hot hand" in this game.
Here are some of my observations from this game.
1) It was obvious that John Franklin was given a limited play book when he did start at QB on Saturday. He ran the ball 7 times for 59 yards and passed 4 times and completed 2 passes for 9 yards. The Auburn offense needed a boost in the second half so Sean White started and led Auburn to their 6th straight win this season. It is evident that the Auburn offense has been built around Sean White's abilities and he does know where the receivers are located on the field. If he was injured you could not tell by his play on the field.
2) The referees are still not calling targeting consistently. Deshaun Davis was ejected early in the game for hitting a Vandy receiver. This ejection was a huge blow for Auburn's already thin linebacker unit. I have seen similar hits in other SEC games that could have been targeting, but were not called. Players just need to learn to pull up before making the hit. It does appear that targeting will continue to be a judgement call just like pass interference.
3) Kamryn Pettway rushed for 173 yards and has now entered the 1,000 yard rushing club at Auburn University. He did have a 60 yard run late in the 4th quarter that would have been a TD, but was stopped after having an apparent leg injury. Auburn was unable to score a TD and a 35 yard field goal attempt was blocked that would have put Auburn ahead by 10.
4) Josh Holsey had another key interception with 36 seconds left in the game that ended Vandy's attempt to win from Auburn's 30 yard line.
5) Tre' Williams was injured and Deshaun Davis was ejected early for targeting which left Auburn thin at the linebacker position. Montavious Atkinson and T.J. Neal came in and played well. T.J. Neal, the graduate transfer from Illinois made a critical stop on a fourth and one on the Auburn 38 yard line in the first quarter and finished the game with 5 tackles and 4 assists. Darrell Williams led the defense with 9 tackles and 2 assists.
6) Darius Slayton is destined to be a great receiver at Auburn. He did catch a nice 21 yard TD pass from Sean White in the third quarter that put Auburn ahead 17-13.
Auburn's "Amen Corner" for this season continues with a game with Georgia in Athens. Auburn has lost the last 4 games in Athens so it is time for Auburn to put a complete game together and win to even this series. It is called the "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry" and Georgia leads the series 56-55-8. These teams first met on February 20, 1892 and was played in Piedmont Park in Atlanta. It was at this game that the team cheer "War Eagle" allegedly started. I did witness one of the best football games between these two teams in 1978 when Auburn tied Georgia 22-22 and prevented them from winning the SEC title. Auburn wore orange jerseys in this game.