The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The eighth-ranked Auburn Tigers will attempt to remain undefeated on Saturday as they invade Lexington for an SEC tussle with the Kentucky Wildcats.
Gene Chizik's Auburn squad moved to 5-0 last weekend with a 52-3 romp over ULM. The Tigers have knocked off South Carolina and Mississippi State along the way and will attempt to move to 3-0 in SEC play on Saturday. Of the five wins to date, three have come by a total of 14 points, so Auburn is no stranger to close games.
"It was a very bizarre feeling, very bizarre," said Chizik when asked to comment on the big lead heading into the fourth quarter after three straight close games. "But, I will take it every time. It was uncharted waters for us up to this point. It was a fun. A lot of kids got to play."
As for Kentucky, it opened the season with three consecutive victories over mediocre non-conference opponents, but the last two outings against teams from the SEC have resulted in defeat. Last weekend, the Wildcats fell to Ole Miss in Oxford by a 42-35 final.
"We'll dust ourselves off and get going for the next one," said Kentucky's first-year head coach Joke Phillips, who pointed to turnovers and penalties as the reasons for defeat.
Auburn owns a commanding 24-6-1 series advantage over Kentucky.
The Tigers have been a formidable offensive team this season, as they are averaging 36.6 ppg and 475.4 total ypg. The key to their success has been balance, as over 200 ypg are being generated both on the ground and through the air. Clearly, the presence of Cam Newton at the quarterback position has been key, as the versatile signal caller is a true play-maker. Newton leads the squad in rushing with 474 yards and five scores, and he has completed 65.5 percent of his passes for 928 yards and 12 touchdowns with four interceptions.
The man to watch on the outside is Darvin Adams, who has recorded 16 catches for 284 yards and two touchdowns. Clearly, however, Newton relies on many receivers to make plays and does an excellent job of keeping opponents guessing.
Auburn rolled up 505 total yards against ULM and scored seven offensive touchdowns. Newton completed 14-of-19 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns, overshadowing an interception, and Mario Fanning paced the ground attack with 89 yards and a score.
It is safe to say that the key to Auburn's defensive success is its ability to stop the run. Foes are gaining a mere 92.8 ypg on the ground against the Tigers at a clip of 2.6 yards per carry. The pass defense hasn't been quite as impressive, yielding 241.8 ypg, there is obviously plenty of time for improvement. Nick Fairley is the man to watch defensively for Auburn, as he already has 11.5 TFLs and five sacks to his credit.
ULM was only able to rush for 38 yards against Auburn on 33 attempts, and while the Warhawks did complete 29 of their 41 pass attempts, those connections averaged only eight yards.
'We played pretty well today," said Fairley after the tilt. "We had to stay focused on this game and not overlook anybody. We went in trying to stop the run and we did that."
Kentucky did an outstanding job of moving the football against Ole Miss, as the Wildcats racked up 424 yards and scored four offensive touchdowns. Mike Hartline was solid under center, completing 26-of-47 passes for 300 yards with two scores and one interception. Tailback Derrick Locke showed off his versatility by rushing for 68 yards and two scores while also catching eight passes for 108 yards. Randall Cobb, another extremely versatile performer, tallied six catches for 108 yards and a score. Unfortunately, three turnovers cost the 'Cats a chance to win.
"Yeah, it definitely doesn't help," said Hartline of the turnovers. "You take turnovers away and the field position they had with the turnovers and the one kick they had and it is a completely different game. It's tough. We expected it to be a good game and down to the wire, but coming from behind like that is just tough."
The Wildcats are averaging 36.4 ppg and 453.6 total ypg, and the fact that the offense has made good on 44 percent of its third down conversion attempts has been a huge plus. Hartline has completed 63.8 percent of his throws for 1,222 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions, while Cobb has made 25 catches for 335 yards and three touchdowns. Chris Matthews has five touchdown receptions, and Locke has run for 543 yards and seven scores.
The starting quarterback for Ole Miss completed only nine passes for 90 yards against Kentucky last weekend. Unfortunately for the Wildcats and their fans, three of the nine connections resulted in touchdowns. Kentucky allowed 211 rushing yards in the tilt and simply didn't play well enough on defense to win.
Kentucky is allowing 28.8 ppg and 308.0 total ypg, and the squad has only come up with five takeaways through five outings. There have been 11 sacks registered, however, and Luke McDermott has posted three of those. Danny Treviathan tops the 'Cats with 42 total tackles, including eight TFLs.