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Auburn 55, Tennessee 23

The SportsXchange

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The No. 7 Auburn Tigers rolled up 444 rushing yards and got both a kick return and punt return touchdown to roll to a 55-23 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.

Quarterback Nick Marshall had 214 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while running back Tre Mason had 117 yards and three more scores. Corey Grant added a 90-yard kick return touchdown to start the second half and Chris Davis returned a punt return 85 yards for a first-half touchdown.

Running back Raijon Neal had 124 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Volunteers while freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs was 16 of 25 for 128 yards and an interception.

Tennessee (4-6, 1-5 SEC) actually led twice in the first half but struggled to contain the SEC's best ground attack. The Tigers (9-1, 5-1) scored on quick sprints, with three Auburn drives taking less than 40 seconds to go along with the two scores on special teams. Davis also had a 42-yard punt return that set up the Tigers' first touchdown.

All that open field swallowed the Vols after a decent start in front of a homecoming crowd of 102,455. Dobbs set up the first of Michael Palardy's three field goals with a 30-yard bomb to wide receiver Marquez North on the first possession of the game. Tennessee led 13-6 after Raijon Neal (11 carries, 69 yards) looked like an Auburn rusher, bursting through a pile of defenders for a 17-yard touchdown.

But Marshall got loose on the very first play of the next drive, sprinting through a hole in the middle 62 yards to the Tennessee 13. Mason ran in for the touchdown on the next play.

Less than five minutes later, Davis returned a Palardy punt 85 yards for a touchdown, the third-longest punt return in school history and the longest Auburn has had since 1970.

Tennessee found itself in chase mode again on the next drive. Running back Corey Grant and Marshall got back-to-back gains over 20 yards to start the drive. Marshall would pick up 42 yards on the six-play, 85-yard drive, including a 7-yard touchdown run that made it 27-13.

Tennessee pulled within 27-20 with an 18-yard pick-6 from defensive lineman Jacques Smith in the final two minutes of the first half, but Auburn had a decisive response. Another big kick return, this time from Mason, set the Tigers up before Marshall ran in from 38 yards out for a touchdown on a two-play scoring drive.

The hole just got bigger after halftime. Grant started the half with that kick-return score and Auburn got Mason two more scores on lengthy drives of eight and 12 plays.

Auburn's first touchdown of the day erased a 3-0 Tennessee lead. It started with Davis' first big punt return, a 42-yard run that set Marshall and the offense up at the Tennessee 22. Marshall connected with tight end C.J. Uzomah on the second play of the drive for a touchdown, but Cody Parkey's extra-point attempt was blocked.

The Vols came back with 10 straight points to take that 13-6 edge before Auburn broke free.

NOTES: Michael Palardy's field goal was Tennessee's first opening-drive score since a touchdown drive against Austin Peay on Aug. 31. ... Auburn has won 85 consecutive games when scoring 30 points or more. ... Saturday's game was Tennessee's homecoming. It snapped a four-game homecoming winning streak for the Vols, dating back to 2009. Tennessee is 27-3 on homecoming since 1984. ... Auburn RB Tre Mason has a touchdown in the last seven games. ... Chris Davis' 85-yard punt return touchdown was the third-longest return in Auburn history and the school's longest since 1970. It was the Tigers' first punt return score since 2008. ... The Volunteers still haven't beaten an AP top-10 team since 2006, a stretch of 19 games. The Vols' last win over an AP top-10 was a 51-33 win at No. 10 Georgia. ... Auburn has won the last six games in this series. Tennessee's last win was a 24-0 victory on Oct. 2, 1999.
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