Oct 28, 2023; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Payton Thorne (1) rolls out to pass against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the fourth quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

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Auburn hopes offense builds on progress vs. skidding Vanderbilt

Auburn hopes to inch closer to bowl eligibility when it visits Vanderbilt on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.

The Tigers (4-4, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) had their best offensive performance in league play in last Saturday’s 27-13 win over Mississippi State. Quarterback Payton Thorne was 20 of 26 for 230 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Running back Jarquez Hunter had 170 yards from scrimmage (144 rushing, 26 receiving) on 19 touches.

Coach Hugh Freeze had rotated quarterbacks, but Robby Ashford had less involvement in the offense (no pass attempts, two rushes for 8 yards) than in any Auburn game this season.

“Offensively, it was our best-balanced performance, for sure,” Freeze said. “It was good to see our receivers make some plays and our quarterback play with some confidence.”

This week offers a chance at continued improvement for Auburn. Vanderbilt ranks last in the SEC in total defense (436.8) and scoring defense (34.2).

But offense was also a problem for Vandy (2-7, 0-5) in last week’s 33-7 defeat at Ole Miss.

It appeared that quarterback Ken Seals — who began the season as the backup, but had started the last three games — had won the job, but coach Clark Lea pulled Seals for Walter Taylor in the first half before returning briefly to Seals, then back to Taylor.

Taylor threw the first 12 passes of his career, completing four for 38 yards, and was intercepted once.

Lea’s hope was that Taylor would boost the team’s struggling rushing attack (92.8 yards per game, 3.4 yards per carry). The 6-foot-7, 235-pound sophomore had team highs in rushes (20) and rushing yards (59) last week, and scored the team’s only TD.

This week’s depth chart has the pair listed as co-starters, with Seals listed first.

“As far as this Saturday, I don’t know if I would be a good coach if I discussed the plan,” Lea said.

The Tigers have been solid defensively, ranking sixth in the SEC in scoring defense (22.5) and 10th in total defense (368.4).

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
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