NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Auburn charged out of the locker room and down the field, finally showing signs of life on offense at the start of the second half.
Then the Tigers regressed. A sack followed a fumble as Auburn reverted to its old ways in a 17-13 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday.
The failed opening drive foreshadowed the rest of the second half. The Tigers (1-6, 0-5 Southeastern Conference) failed to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter for the eighth straight game. As a result, they're off to their worst start since 1952, when Shug Jordan was in his second year as coach.
After hoisting the national championship in 2010, Gene Chizik's future with the Tigers could be in jeopardy. With its fourth straight loss, Auburn is the first team to start a season 1-6 within two years of winning a national title.
"This was another example of us having a chance at the end of the game to win the game and we couldn't close the door on it," Chizik said. "Again, we fell short. . At some point in time we're going to have to figure out how to get the game at that point and win it, and we're obviously struggling with that."
Auburn, the SEC's worst-scoring offense, failed to sustain drives, converting just 2 of 15 third downs and allowing five sacks.
The Tigers' 10 first-half points came off turnovers by Vanderbilt (3-4, 2-3). Tre Mason scored Auburn's only touchdown on a 2-yard run for a brief 10-7 lead late in the first half. The Commodores tied it 81 seconds later with a field goal heading into halftime.
Out of the break, the Tigers marched to Vanderbilt's 45 in four plays and appeared to be in rhythm. But freshman Jonathan Wallace, inserted in the Wildcat formation, fumbled and the ball went off the foot of a Vanderbilt defender. The Tigers recovered but lost 10 yards on the play. Quarterback Clint Moseley was sacked, which led to a punt.
Another glimmer of hope surfaced later in the quarter. Mason picked up 34 yards to the Vanderbilt 40. Auburn then had two false starts and Moseley took another sack, as the Tigers settled for another punt.
"I think it's a group effort," fullback Jay Prosch said. "Sometimes you miss assignments here and there, and for offense to work, everyone has to be in sync."
Not all mistakes came on offense.
Auburn was flagged just four times, but two penalties came on special teams. Twice the Tigers were penalized 15 yards for not allowing Vanderbilt to field a fair catch. One punt bounced off Ontario McCalebb's helmet as he blanketed returner Jonathan Krause.
The Tigers finished with just 212 yards of offense. Moseley passed for 98 yards while completing 14 of 20. Mason picked up 85 yards on 16 carries.
The defense offered the Tigers one last chance by forcing a fumble late in the fourth quarter. Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy finished with 169 yards on 27 carries and broke the school's all-time rushing record. But he coughed up his last carry when freshman Cassanova McKinzy popped the ball loose and Corey Lemonier recovered at the 32 with 2:24 left.
Auburn marched to Vanderbilt's 41 before Moseley threw three straight incompletions. His last overshot an open Sammie Coates on fourth-and-13 to turn the ball over with 52 seconds left.
After beating Vanderbilt 13 straight times from 1978 to 2007, the Tigers have lost two in a row to the Commodores.
"We have to continue to work hard, continue to be a team and to lift each other up even when we're upset," Wallace said. "We've been doing that, and it's a matter of staying positive."