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Todd takes reins as Auburn's quarterback

9/6/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn has its quarterback.

Chris Todd established himself as the clear-cut starter heading into the SEC part of the schedule with a steady, mistake-free performance Saturday in the Tigers' 27-13 win over Southern Miss.

"Chris did a good job, and barring anything happening, he'll be our starter next week (against Mississippi State)," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said.

Now that the Tigers have settled on their quarterback, the next question becomes: Can they beat the elite teams in this league with Todd working primarily the underneath routes and the shorter swing passes to receivers and running backs?

"We've got to get better, and we will get better," Todd said. "We didn't take a lot of chances down the field today. We took a few, but the big thing was being smart. If you don't have to take chances, you don't have to."

Todd finished 21-of-31 for 248 yards. He didn't throw any touchdowns, but he also didn't throw any interceptions. He started and went the whole way in the first half.

Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin decided to give Kodi Burns the first possession of the second half, which resulted in a three-and-out. Burns returned on the Tigers' next drive and scored a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

But on the next series, Burns tried to float one on the run that was intercepted, which didn't sit well with Tuberville.

"Kodi got a little lackadaisical," Tuberville said. "You can't come in and do what he did. Every snap in college football is important. He took it for granted. He threw the ball down the field, and it got tipped. A good lesson learned, but you don't play much when you do that."

Franklin blamed himself for breaking Todd's rhythm in the second half, but he wanted to at least give Burns another shot.

It's obvious now that Todd is the Tigers' quarterback, and Franklin said the whole offense would prosper just by knowing that Todd was the guy. Franklin added that Burns would still play situationally.

"We'll get better. We're going to get better, and I don't think there's any doubt about it," said Franklin, who was peeved about the Tigers' four turnovers, including three fumbles by three different running backs. "With Chris taking most of the snaps now, it will help everybody kind of come together a little bit."

Todd admittedly is still not throwing the ball like he was before he injured his shoulder in his next-to-last junior college game. He said it was a Grade 3 separation of the AC joint. And although it's significantly better than it was this spring, he's still a tad hesitant about making certain throws.

The frustrating part for Todd is knowing what his arm strength was like before the injury and not being able to make as many of those same throws as instinctively right now.

"Sometimes, I feel real good. Sometimes ... I don't know," said Todd, who started his career at Texas Tech before spending last year at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. "We made the throws we needed to make today. I think it's going to continue to get stronger. I think I can make most of them. I really don't have to hold back too much right now."

Franklin was proud of the way Todd responded. Everybody's pride on offense was hurt after the passing game produced just 85 yards (28 yards through three quarters) in the opener. Franklin only told Todd that he was going to get the start against Southern Miss. He didn't tell him how much he was going to play.

"He didn't know he was going to play the whole first half. What he knew was that he was going to play until he wasn't hot," Franklin said. "He played well early. I just left him in. I felt he had a good feel and a good rhythm. He rose to the occasion, and I broke his rhythm in the second half."

Todd was able to spread the ball around in the first half. On the Tigers' second touchdown drive, five different players touched the ball. He also showed the ability to escape and was sacked only once.

"The team all rallied up and was ready to go," Todd said. "They weren't happy with last week. It felt good to get into a rhythm somewhat, but I felt like that was more the whole offense being ready to go than anything."

Other notables

Bosley plays tackle: The Tigers played center Jason Bosley some at tackle and moved Ryan Pugh to center.

Slaughter suspended: Auburn receiver Chris Slaughter didn't play in the game and has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, Tuberville said.

Coleman tweaks knee: Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman tweaked his knee in the second half, but said it wasn't serious.

Too sloppy: Tuberville's overall assessment of the game probably echoed what most Auburn fans were thinking afterward. "We've got work to do. We can't play that sloppy in the second half and win in the SEC," Tuberville said. "You've got to play like we did in the first half on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. If we do that, we'll have a good football team. We've got to understand that and practice like that getting ready for Mississippi State."