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Tigers Run Over Vols On Rocky Top

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A 55-23 Auburn victory over Tennessee gives Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers their ninth win of the season. Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images.
A 55-23 Auburn victory over Tennessee gives Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers their ninth win of the season. Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images.

Another Auburn game, another rushing clinic.

Gus Malzahn has his Auburn team not only playing well, but the Tigers believe that they can play with anyone. Auburn ran for 444 yards today inside Neyland Stadium, a game some were thinking could be close due to Tennessee's home success this season.

Tennessee played well in the first half besides allowing Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall to run all over the Vols' defense. The Tigers never looked back from a 34-20 halftime lead. Tennessee only scored one field goal in the second half, losing 55-23.

The Auburn ground game and special teams play was the deciding difference against Rocky Top. Auburn's special teams averaged a new NCAA record of 44.9 yards on seven kick/punt returns against Tennessee. The previous record: 41.8 yards per return by Florida State against Virginia Tech in 1974. The return game also included a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown by Corey Grant and an 85-yard punt return touchdown by Chris Davis. This was the first time in Auburn's football history (since 1892) both a kick and punt return resulted in a touchdown in the same game.

Why Auburn's Run Game Was Explosive

Auburn recorded 444 rushing yards and only had 35 yards passing. Last week at Arkansas, Gus Malzahn's offense only threw the ball nine times. Auburn only threw the ball seven times against Tennessee. Tennessee's linebacker play was not a good match going against the Auburn ground game. Nick Marshall ran for 214 yards, Tre Mason 117 yards, Cameron Artist-Payne 53 yards, and Corey Grant 48 yards. 

Malzahn opened the game with three consecutive passes and all three were in-completions. Gus then got back to what has been working all season and ran the ball. The second quarter is when Malzahn made the adjustments and 211 yards on just 3:49 time of possession paved the way for Auburn to control the game. The Vols put enough pressure on Auburn with their defensive line, making Auburn to adjust back to their ground game as the Tigers secured a ninth win. 

Josh Dobbs And The State Of The Tennessee Offense

Dobbs was 16-of-25 for 128 yards today against the Auburn defense. Dobbs is 0-2 as the Tennessee starting quarterback, but don't let the two losses fool you. Butch Jones and the Tennessee coaching staff have confidence in the freshman. Dobbs has thrown the ball 79 times total against Alabama, Missouri and Auburn, proving the trust Jones has in his freshman QB. Coming into the game against Alabama and now having two starts under his belt, playing Vanderbilt and Kentucky could be the perfect remedy for Dobbs to produce some touchdowns and wins. 

What Does The Outcome Mean For Both Teams?

From nine losses in 2012 to nine wins a year later, Auburn is sitting in a place no one thought they'd be after 10 games. A win next week against Georgia will put the Tigers in position for an Iron Bowl showdown with a trip to the SEC championship game on the line against their arch-rival.

The game would field championship implications for the two schools that have not let the crystal ball leave the state of Alabama in the last four years. Even with a loss to Alabama, Auburn can still make a BCS bowl as an at-large, most likely the Sugar Bowl, if they beat Georgia.

Tennessee is 4-6 and still can achieve their goal of a bowl game. The Vols host in-state nemesis, Vanderbilt and head coach James Franklin, next week. A road trip to Kentucky follows to close out the 2013 regular season. The Vols have to win both to make a bowl, but the possibility is still alive.

The Commodores are coming off a victory at Florida, their first win over Florida since 1988 and the first time Vanderbilt won inside The Swamp since 1945. The Vols' bowl quest and seizing control of the Volunteer state is on the line next Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

Postgame Quotes

Tennessee

Butch Jones

"We have to finish the season for the seniors. They have been through so much, they deserve it."

On Auburn's Offense: "When you play a fast team like Auburn, you have to be decisive in the way you tackle. If you sit back, they gain ground."

On The State Of Vols Football: "I know exactly where we need to take our program. We will get there. I believe in Tennessee football."

Josh Dobbs

"Our goal every drive is to score touchdowns. We need to finish off our drives."

Michael Palardy

"When the ball leaves my foot, I am considered the last line of defense. I have to make a play somehow. I can't give up."

Auburn

Gus Malzahn

"A very big win for us on the road against a team that has been playing extremely well at home. It was a great crowd, it was loud down there. It was a true team effort."

On Nick Marshall: "He's a great athlete. He's starting to understand the offense, he's making the right decisions and when the he gets the ball out in space, he can really do some things."

On The Return Touchdowns: "That was big. The punt return was a long punt return. We had really good blocking at the point of attack. Corey Grant cut it back across the field. He's got real speed. Those were two huge plays that helped us win the game."