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Tate, Cox carry Auburn to easy win over Tulane

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- No. 8 Auburn's tailback of the future might
have just moved his timetable up.

Freshman Ben Tate ran for 156 yards to carry a hobbled running
game and Brandon Cox passed for 212 yards and three touchdowns in
the Tigers' 38-13 win over Tulane on Saturday.

Tate shouldered most of the rushing load with starter Kenny
Irons sitting out to rest a gimpy ankle and backup Brad Lester
aggravating a nagging groin injury early.

"I just think it's about the coaches finally having confidence
in me," said Tate, who had only 11 carries for 119 yards coming
into the game. "Now that I showed them what I can do, I don't
think they'll really hesitate too much to put me in the game."

They might not have a choice.

The Tigers (7-1) were hoping to avoid a letdown following a
victory over then-No. 2 Florida last week, and succeeded mostly due
to forcing three turnovers in a game featuring short-handed
offenses that put up plenty of yards.

Lester started but played only sparingly, catching a 36-yard
pass and rushing for a 2-yard touchdown on the opening drive but
only getting two carries after that.

Tulane (2-5), playing without two injured starters at receiver,
has now lost its last 31 games against ranked opponents dating back
to 1982.

Cox was 16-of-19 passing and was almost flawless in the first
half, when he went 12-of-13 for 161 yards and two touchdowns. The
only incompletion was a dropped pass by a wide-open Tre Smith, who
would have been in a foot race for a 73-yard TD on the play.

"It's the best I've felt all year," Cox said. "That was my
best game."

Tate ran 26 times and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the
fourth quarter.

He might have gone from a potential redshirt to No. 1 if the
other backs can't go against Mississippi.

"Kenny is still hobbling around. Brad is going to be
hobbling," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "I don't know how
much playing time (Tate) will get. He might be the starter next
week. It just depends on what happens."

Auburn held out guard Tim Duckworth (knee) and fullback Carl
Stewart (strained calf) and center Jason Bosley also went down with
a knee injury. Tuberville said he wouldn't know the status of
Bosley, subbing for an injured Joe Cope, until Sunday.

"Those injuries are getting pretty serious going down the
stretch here," he said.

The Green Wave had a chance to pull within a touchdown in the
third quarter but receiver Preston Brown fumbled at the Auburn 5,
ending a 92-yard drive.

The Tigers then drove 87 yards and scored on Cox's 23-yard pass
to Courtney Taylor for the receiver's first touchdown of the
season, making it 31-10.

Auburn had another touchdown set up by a fumbled shotgun snap by
Lester Ricard at the 10 in the first half and an interception by
Zach Gilbert stopped another late threat.

"Every time you make a mistake on them, that's a sign of a
great football team when they capitalize on it," Tulane coach
Chris Scelfo said. "They caused a lot of havoc for us."

Tulane's offense caused some havoc in gaining 389 yards, the
most allowed by the nation's fifth-ranked scoring defense this
season.

"We left a lot of points on the field today," receiver
Damarcus Davis said.

Ricard completed 20 of 39 passes for 283 yards and a touchdown.
Preston Brown caught nine passes for 139 yards and Davis gained 126
yards on eight catches. Matt Forte rushed for 117 yards for his
third consecutive 100-yard game.

"That's probably the best quarterback we've seen this year,"
Tuberville said. "He put it on the money and we couldn't get any
pressure in the first half.

"We gave up too many big plays on defense."

Even short-handed, Auburn's offense was more effective. The
Tigers' 432 yards was the most since their season opener against
Washington State, when they had 484.

Auburn led 24-10 at halftime, thanks partly to a pair of
improbable field-goal opportunities in the last 15 seconds.

First, Tuberville opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 at his own
32, but Cox was stopped for no gain on a sneak.

Auburn's defense held Tulane to a 21-yard field goal by Ross
Thevenot with 15 seconds left. Then, Thevenot's squib kick went
right to tight end Tommy Trott -- who earlier caught a 27-yard
touchdown pass -- and he returned it to midfield with 10 seconds to
play.

Cox hit Lee Guess for a 22-yard pass to set up John Vaughn's
45-yard kick as time expired.

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