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Backup QB Adams leads Vandy to first 5-0 start in 65 years

Oct 5, 2008 - 4:06 AM NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- It took a great performance from a backup quarterback for Vanderbilt to get off to a 5-0 start for the first time in 65 years.

Mackenzi Adams tossed two touchdowns Saturday night, leading the 19th-ranked Commodores to a 14-13 upset of No. 14 Auburn and their first perfect start through five games since 1943.

"Obviously, it was a big win for us, and it was a tough battle," Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson said. "But I'm proud of how are guys hung in there, because the first quarter was kind of a scare. But we came fighting back."

The win also snapped Vanderbilt's 13-game losing streak to the Tigers. The Commodores' previously had not beaten their Southeastern Conference foe since the 1955 Gator Bowl.

"It's been pretty exciting around campus this week, and we were really looking forward to this game and it was sold out and it just added to the hype," Adams said. "I'm just glad we came out and performed and played hard just like I knew we would. It's a lot of fun playing in that environment."

Playing as a ranked team for the fourth time since World War II, the Commodores overcame an early 13-point deficit after starting quarterback Chris Nickson left the contest midway through the second quarter.

A junior, Adams completed 13-of-23 passes for 152 yards with no interceptions and rushed for 49 yards in relief. He found Justin Wheeler on a 15-yard TD pass in the second quarter and then connected with Brandon Barden on a 1-yard score in the third to give Vanderbilt the lead.

Before Adams' heroics, the Tigers (4-2, 2-2 SEC West) were in complete control. Ben Tate, who finished with 108 yards on 27 carries, helped control the line of scrimmage and Chris Todd tossed a pair of scores in the first quarter.

Auburn opened the scoring with 4:09 left in the first when Todd found Rodgeriqus Smith for a 7-yard TD strike. Exactly one minute later, Todd threw a 28-yard TD pass to Mario Fannin.

"They put eight or nine people up there and forced us to throw it, and we came out and threw it and scored the touchdown on the second drive," Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We didn't have any rhythm from then on. We couldn't run it."

But Wes Byrum missed the extra point, hitting the goalpost with his attempt. That blunder opened the door for Vanderbilt (5-0, 3-0 East).

After taking the lead with 7:09 left in the third quarter, the Commodores did not allow the Tigers to get anything going offensively.

"I think our staff does a fantastic job of looking at what we've been running the whole first half," Johnson said. "It allows our guys to play fast and confidently, and just go out there and execute a few things and execute them well. The other thing is we stay aggressive."

Auburn had just two first downs in the fourth quarter and was planted on its own 3-yard-line with 2:16 left for its final opportunity. Todd was intercepted by cornerback Myron Lewis on the first play of the drive.

"We've got to turn it around. We scored two touchdowns tonight," Tuberville said. "That's about half of what we scored the first three games. We'll go back and we'll look at it and see who's healthy. Our protection broke down when we were throwing the ball."

Todd completed just 8-of-16 passes for 70 yards.